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July 1, 2011 / Arlington Unwrapped

Where Can You Get “Stranded at the Drive-In” This Summer?

There’s certainly something to be said for 3-D, IMAX, stadium seating, etc…  However, that’s not the only way to watch a movie. Who’s to say it’s even the best?

Sandy and Danny at the Drive-In

I re-watched “Grease” recently, and this week I’ve been on a mission to find a drive-in movie theater in Arlington. Not an OUTDOOR movie – we’ve got plenty of those – but an old school, park in a field, speaker next to the car, buy popcorn at a slightly sketchy concession stand Drive-In Movie.

The now-extinct Arlington Airport Drive-In

The good news is, I did in fact find one in Arlington  – The Airport Drive-In at 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway. The bad news? It closed in 1963 (it was torn down to make room for what was to become Crystal City)

Luckily there’s drive-ins.com – which lets you search for drive-in theaters that have withstood the test of time. Turns out there is a grand total of 2 possibilities within 100 miles of Arlington.

The Family Drive-In in Stephens City Virginia has been in business since 1956. It’s located south of Winchester, so coming from Arlington you would take 66-West to 81-North.  This is the only theater in Virginia with 2 screens, and they are lit up 7 nights a week Memorial Day-Labor Day (weekends only during Spring and Fall).  Some tickets for each show are available online (with the rest available for purchase in person) and ticket prices are a reasonable $7.50 per adult, $3.50 per child.  For DOUBLE FEATURES!   As is typically the case, movies kick off at dusk (around 9pm). They are open an hour or more before each show, so you can get there early for a prime spot – Friday and Saturday you will want to get there EXTRA early (I’m told cars actually line up on the road before the theater even opens). The concession stand offers all the grease and sugar you could possibly dream of and, while outside food is allowed in, purchasing treats at the theater is a necessary part of the experience (not to mention its basically what keeps drive-ins in business).

Bengies - Approximately 65 miles from Arlington

Bengies Drive-In Theater in Middle River Maryland, just outside of Baltimore, has also been in business since 1956. Today it boasts the biggest outdoor screen in America, at 52 feet high and 120 feet wide. Admission prices for adults range from $5-10 depending on movie run, and child tickets are $4 – this is for double or sometimes TRIPLE features! Tickets are sold on site, CASH ONLY. Bengies has a number of rules and policies that are strictly enforced, so checking them out online prior to planning your trip is a good idea. Outside food and drink is forbidden – unless your car purchases an “outside food permit” for $10 prior to entering the theater. Showtimes and box office hours vary depending on what time sunset is, so check the website or call ahead for specifics!

I haven’t been to either of these establishments yet – so I’d love to hear from anyone who’s been! Is there a closer drive-in I’m not aware of? If so, let me know in the comments.

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