I have been traveling 100 miles round trip to see movies at the Mission Tiki drive-in outside of Los Angeles almost every weekend. It sucks to pay for that gas but I love seeing things happen on the big screen. Even if I have to listen to my car radio to do it.
These kinds of theaters are making a serious comeback, mostly because they are a safer way to experience the cinema while reducing physical contact.
With movies like Tenet joining the exhibition, the team at WorkWise took a deep dive into looked into drive-in movie theaters across the US in 2020. The report looks at which states have the most official drive-ins, how much they cost, when they originally opened, and more.
Here’s what they found:
- New York is home to the most drive-in movie theaters with 28 options within state borders.
- The average state has 6.58 official drive-in movie theaters.
- The average drive-in movie theater ticket costs $10.14 per person.
- The cheapest ticket is in Florida, where the average is approx. $6.14.
- Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Texas have had the most revival drive-ins, each with over 10 new theaters opened since the 90s.
Those are the headlines—let's dig into the real meat of the story that tells us much more. In 2019, movie ticket sales in North America reached $11.4 billion. That was a number Hollywood was certain to beat this year, but the pandemic has shut down most movie theaters, and it’s not clear when they will reopen to full capacity.
Drive-In movies are great, but not every state has access to them.
Let's take a gander at the numbers.
Does your state have options?Credit: WorkWise
Our access to drive-in theaters depends entirely on which state we live in. While the top 5 states in the country still have 20+ movie theaters each, there are some states with little or no access.
People who live in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Indiana have multiple drive-in theaters to choose from, but Maryland, New Jersey, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wyoming are all only home to one drive-in theater each.
With 5 states having nothing.
Also, what about ticket prices?
Does your state suck at showing movies in drive-ins?Credit: WorkWise
Okay, not all drive-ins are made the same. Some still have older projectors and screens, so the study also wanted to look at which theaters had the nicest equipment when it came to showing films. The difference between the states with the highest and lowest average star rating is just 0.4. The lowest average star ratings range from 4.30 to 4.44.
I'm not sure that's scientific but the states with this lower level of satisfaction are Alabama, Maryland, New Jersey, California, and Florida. While not a large difference, the state with the highest average star rating at 4.8 is Wyoming, closely followed by South Dakota, Virginia, Minnesota, New Mexico, and South Carolina.
I've found the California ones I have been to be nice and clean, but it's a big state so who really knows?
What does a drive-in cost?Credit: WorkWise
I pay $10 per ticket to go to the movies here in California, but it looks like pricing all over is varied. Some theaters sell individual tickets while some charge by vehicle, regardless of how many people are in the vehicle. The states with the lowest average cost mostly charge individual tickets, with the average price across the top 5 being just $6.43.
Per person seems like the fairest way to do it during a pandemic, since sharing cars with people not in your bubble is ill-advised.
The most expensive states to attend a drive-in movie charge by car; where you can expect to pay an average of $21.32. Even though drive-ins are making a comeback, they still have a need to actually adapt to what modern audiences need and want.
Is your state flourishing?Credit: WorkWise
Now that we know we might be in this for a while, drive-ins are popping up all over the place. The study charted which movie theaters have reopened. Texas leads the resurgence with 15 drive-in theaters opened. In second and third places are Alabama and Pennsylvania with 11 and 10 drive-ins reopened since the 1990s, respectively.
Other states that have reopened a significant number of drive-in theaters include Tennessee, Missouri, New York, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
I am not sure how long these will be sustainable, but for now, it's nice to see them being a place of refuge for people.
Have you seen a movie at a drive-in during quarantine?
Let us know in the comments.