Tuesday, July 09, 2013

#551 Vacation Virginia Drive-Ins

When our Vacation Virginia weekends include a trip to a drive-in, we call it a VA-VA-Drive-In.

Drive-in theaters are a fragile business, with only 357 remaining in operation in the US today according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.  We are lucky to have 9 operating drive-in theaters in Virginia  today - Abingdon, Christiansburg, Goochland, Keysville, Lexington, Marion, Moneta, Norton, Stephens City - all in the western half of the state. 

We like to use a trip to the drive-in as a pretext to visit a part of the state we might have otherwise missed.  So far, we've visited 4 of the 9 Virginia drive-ins and we've listed them here in order of distance from home.

Sandy Hook - Goochland Drive-in
Opened: 2009 with a 40' x 80' screen
Ticket price per person for a double feature: $8
Digital projection: converted to digital in 2012
Thumbs up:
+ closest to home
+ the 2nd newest drive-in in the US
+ smoke-free outside the designated smoking area
+ enthusiasm shown for Goochdogs

Lexington - Hull's Drive-In Theater
This is our favorite VA-VA-Drive-In, so we've visited twice this summer to see Man of Steel and The Lone Ranger.   On the 4th of July, we watched The Lone Ranger in view of Lexington's fireworks and Mother Nature's lightning and we even got to fulfill my dream of watching an outdoor movie in the rain!  If you miss the good old days of the Fork Union drive-in, then this theater is for you.
Opened: 1950
Ticket price per person for a double feature: $7
Digital projection:  converted to digital in 2012
Thumbs up:
+ the nation's only non-profit, community-owned, drive-in theater
+ grass field rather than a gravel parking lot
+ tall parking levels, so no problem seeing over the car in front of you
+ no smoking in the first two rows
+ lots of locals hanging out before the show
+ can reach up and make bunny ears in front of the projector
+ beautiful setting

Keysville - Keysville Drive-In
Opened: 1952
Ticket price per person for a double feature: $7, can buy online
Digital projection: not yet converted
Thumbs up:
+ all grass field
+ casual attitude toward parking rows since there are no traditional pole speakers
+ long season, open April through November
+ bounce house for pre-show fun

Stephens City - Family Drive-In
Our weekend in the Winchester area included seeing Star Trek Into Darkness in Stephens City.
Opened: 1956
Ticket price per person for a double feature: $8, can buy online
Digital projection: will convert to digital on August 5, 2013
Thumbs up:
+ the only 2-screen drive-in theater in Virginia (240 cars and 144 cars)
+ open 7 days a week

Baltimore - Bengie's Drive-In
Technically (and geographically!), Bengie's is not in Virginia, but it is within driving range for us so we include it here.  When EVERY drive-in theater in Virginia is showing Iron Man 3, we decide a road trip to Baltimore is in order to watch '42' on the giant screen.  Bengie's Drive-In was made famous by John Waters (the director from Baltimore) in the film Cecil B. Demented.
Opened: 1956
Ticket price per person for a double feature: $9, but can vary
Digital projection: converted to digital in June 2013
Thumbs up:
+ the biggest movie theater screen in the US, 52' x 120
+ everyone stands outside their car for the national anthem

We haven't been able to visit the 5 theaters in southwest Virginia (Abingdon, Christiansburg, Marion, Moneta, and Norton) yet and we're keeping our fingers crossed that they're able to convert from film to digital so we can visit next summer!

Yours in enjoying open-air cinema,

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