Jessica Testa - 2 Nov, 2020

Why you should check out drive-in theatres across Australia

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While we’re in a new era of physical distancing, there’s a new craze sweeping the nation. Drive-in theatres are making a revival and they have become the new way to have a great time with your friends on a Friday night.

So what’s all the fuss about? Let’s get reacquainted with drive-in theatres.

What is a drive-in theatre and how do they work?

As the name suggests, a drive-in theatre is an outdoor movie theatre that allows you to sit in the comfort of your car, or on BYO-seat in the fresh air, to watch a movie. Although there aren’t many left after their popularity dropped a few years ago, they still exist both in Australia and across the world.

Drive-in theatres are able to host 300 – 700 cars at one time, depending on their size. You can just drive into the lot, park your car facing the screen and hook the sound up to your radio so you can hear the film as it is playing clearly while inside your vehicle. If you choose to sit on your own chair outside, that is also a fine way to soak up the night sky as you enjoy your film.

With prices ranging from $8 – $35 per person or carload, depending on what the specific theatre advertises, a drive-in date could be a safe and affordable way to get out of the house if you are able to and have fun with your friends or family. Some allow outside food, but you can also treat yourself to a box of popcorn and a choc top, or even hot food if it is available, from the diner.

It is important to check the website before going down to your nearest drive-in as they may advertise specific movies for the week. They may also do presales for upcoming films.

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How have drive-in theatres changed over time?

The Drive-in theatre began in a New Jersey driveway in 1928 before the first official drive-in was opened in 1933. It wasn’t before long that the trend started to take off around the world. Although it took an extra 20 years, Australia also jumped on the bandwagon.

Australia’s first drive-in theatre opened in Burwood, Victoria in 1954. It was called the Skyline and started off playing the musical comedy On the Riviera. The first night was a raging success with 2000 cars creating a traffic jam as they fought to gain access to the theatre and secure the 600 spaces available. Soon, Australia had 330 drive-ins thriving around the country overall.

The fall, however, was imminent and it soon came in the 1970s as colour TV and daylight savings were introduced. Also, as more people started moving to the city and land value increased, it was better economically to use lots of this size for property development instead of an outdoor cinema. Eventually, the number of drive-in theatres in Australia shrunk to a mere 16. 

According to the Smithsonian, when the drive-ins’ popularity started dropping off, they were forced to play B movies and X-rated movies in order to survive. Nowadays, they tend to play G-rated films to appeal to families looking for something different to do.

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How have drive-in theatres become popular again?

With COVID-19 causing movie theatres around Australia to close, drive-in theatres have become a safe alternative to replace them.

The Gold Coast’s Yatala Drive-in re-opened back in May as businesses began to come back to life after a nation-wide lockdown and Lunar Drive-in re-opened in June. They hosted audiences of people who were eager to get out of the house and do something different.

Many more drive-in theatres have re-opened, playing some of last year’s best films and even some new ones that have been released. One drive-in in Sydney had even come out with a fun program called Mov’In Car Drive In Cinema, where cinema-goers can drive up to the rooftop of the carpark at the Entertainment Quarter to enjoy some great movies with a vintage flavour.

Thus, the revival of drive-in theatres has begun!

What are some tips if you’re looking to have a drive-in movie night?

So how can we make the most of this trend coming back at a time we really need a positive change?

Whether you’re looking to have a good time with a group of friends or a romantic date with your significant other, heading down to your nearest drive-in could be a good option so you can still maintain a healthy social distance from others.

 Here are some tips to remember for your next trip to the drive-in theatre:

  • Make sure you know how to connect your car radio correctly so you can hear the movie clearly. You don’t want to be fiddling around in your car while you’re trying to watch the movie.
  • Feel free to get comfortable. Bring some pillows and blankets if you like so you can sit back and just enjoy the movie as if you’re at home on your couch.
  • Buying food from the cinema can be expensive, and drive-in theatres are no different. You may want to check if your cinema allows home-brought food and grab some snacks on the way over.
  • Some of you may not have a drive-in theatre that is based close to where you live, so it may require a bit of a trip to get here. You may want to take this opportunity to take a staycation somewhere in your home state or territory and check the local drive-in theatre out while you’re there.

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Where are some of the drive-in theatres across Australia?

There are a few drive-in theatres left in each state and territory across Australia. Here is our list of each one so you can easily find the one nearest to you:

New South Wales

  • Skyline Drive-in Blacktown – Cricketers Arms Road, Blacktown, New South Wales 2148
  • Heddon Greta Drive In – Heddon Street, Newcastle, New South Wales 2321


  • Yatala Drive-in – 100 Jacobs Well Road, Stapylton, Queensland 4207
  • Mareeba Drive-In – 5303 Kennedy Highway, Mareeba, Queensland 4880
  • Tors Drive-in – 130 New Queen Road, Queenton, Queensland 4820
  • Stardust Drive-in in Ayr – 27 Kilrie Road, AYR, Queensland 4807
  • Jericho Drive-In – Darwin Street, Jericho, Queensland 4728

South Australia

  • Mainline Drive-In – 588 Main N Road, Gepps Cross, South Australia 5094
  • Coober Pedy Drive-in Theatre – Umoona Road, Coober Pedy, South Australia 5723


  • Dromana 3 Drive-In – 133 Nepean Highway, Dromana, Victoria 3936
  • Village Cinemas Coburg Drive-In – 155 Newlands Road, Coburg , Victoria 3058
  • Lunar Drive-In Theater – 115 S Gippsland Highway, Dandenong, Victoria 3175

Western Australia

  • Kookaburra Outdoor Cinema – Allen Road, Mundaring, Western Australia 6073
  • Galaxy Drive-In Theatre – Hocking Road, Kingsley, Western Australia 6026
  • Dongara Drive-in – LOT 941 Point Leander Drive, Port Denison, Western Australia 6525
  • Koorda Drive-in – 2 Orchard Street, Koorda, Western Australia 6475
  • Want to support some local businesses during the pandemic? Find out how.

Words by Jessica Testa


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