by DriveInMovie Released : 2023-12-01
Many people dream of owning and operating their own business. Some want to own a restaurant, others a retail store, others a brewery or distillery. And then there are those whose dream many find a bit odd for this day and age – the dream of owning and operating a drive-in movie theater. While many mistakenly think the drive-in theater is a relic of the 1950’s, they are still around, still entertaining people on warm summer nights, ad still fueling the fantasies of would be owners.
During the peak of the drive-in theater back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, there were over 4000 drive-ins operating in the United States. Today, there are only about 320 remaining meaning there are only about 300 drive-in theater business owners (some owners own multiple drive-ins) in the United States. So being a drive-in owner is an exclusive club these days which heightens the appeal for some. Thoughts of bringing nightly entertainment under the stars to families during the happy months of summer is an appealing draw for many. Others have fond memories of going to the drive-in in their youth and wish to recreate those feelings by owning one.
But owning and operating a drive-in in today’s entertainment overloaded society is a rough business. Drive-in owners have to compete with more forms of on-demand entertainment than ever before. They have to fight with the weather just to open as this past spring’s late arrival will attest. At a time when many drive-ins were normally open, their lots were still covered in snow from the winter that just would not let go. In addition, drive-in owners must deal with increasing land values and taxes, ever more demanding movie studios, increasing equipment cost and a host of other business hurdles.
But for those who still wish to dream about owning a drive-in, here is your chance. Below is a list of operating drive-in theaters in the United States currently for sale. There are other former drive-ins for sale, but only ones currently in operation are listed below. Most of the owners looking to sell are simply doing so in order to retire and they would love to see their drive-ins continue to operate versus being turned into another strip mall or other commercial development. So if you have the desire, check these out.
In September or 2023, the Mustang Drive-In in Prince Edward County was listed for sale for $1.599 million. Take the reigns of a fully turn key, successful business in a prime location in one of the hottest tourist destinations in Ontario. Daydreaming about starting new adventure? This is it! Join a community of inspiring, like minded individuals who have carved their path in PEC. Imagine working for four months providing entertainment to the masses and also having the rest of the year to travel and unwind. If you have more ambitious a vision, the Highway Commercial (CH) zoning allows for a number of uses, including, hotel, motel and restaurant just to name a few. The listing also includes a residence above the business so no need to commute. Already have a place to stay? Maybe a key staff member could use it and be your eyes and ears on the ground. With over 9 acres of land to play with and a short drive to all the county hubs The Mustang Drive-In is ready for your vision to become a reality!
Doc's Drive-in is a twin screen drive-in theater located in Buda, Texas which is about 15 south of Austin, Texas. Doc's Drive-in is a new drive-in that opened in October of 2018. It has some unique features such as tiny homes with movie themes that can be rented so you can stay the night after the movies. They also have a pond with a swimming beach that rental house guests can use. As you would expect, Doc's has concessions on site but they also have a bar as well modeled after an old Speakeasy bar.
In July of 2022, the owners listed Doc's Drive-in Theatre for sale. The asking price is $3,999,999 which is certainly on the high side for a drive-in compared to other drive-ins for sale. However, it is a two screen drive-in that includes 8 acres, a members-only speakeasy club, a commercial kitchen, and three casitas (plus their short-term rental income flow).
You can see the listing here.
Calvert City Drive-in - SOLD
The Calvert City Drive-in is a single screen drive-in movie theater located in Calvert City, Kentucky which is next to Kentucky Lake in the western part of Kentucky. It has been open since 1953 and is a popular, classic 1950's drive-in.
In 2021, the 110 year old owner passed away. After her death, the drive-in closed for the remainder of the 2021 season and did not open for the 2022 season and remains closed as of this writing in July, 2022. In July of 2022, family member and partial owner of the Calvert City Drive-in announced the drive-in would go up for sale. The current asking price is $974,221. If interested, please call Ed Barker, Realtor at 270-994-4329.
The Brownsville Drive-in is a three screen drive-in theater located in Grindstone, PA which is about an hour south of Pittsburgh, PA. The owner put the drive-in up for sale in 2021 and it remains for sale as of this writing in July of 2022.
The current owner started working at the Brownsville Drive-in as a teenager selling tickets. He and a partner bought the drive-in in 1972 and have owned it ever since. So after 50 years of running it, he is looking to retire and hopes someone will buy it and continue to run it as a drive-in.
The Brownsville Drive-in is in excellent shape and has been well maintained. No price was given but any interested parties can call the owner at 724-970-7462 or email the owner at email@example.com.
The Aurora Sunset Drive-in is a single screen drive-in located in Aurora, Missouri which is in the Southwest corner of the state in the Ozarks. It has been in continuous operation since opening in 1951.
The Aurora Sunset Drive-in is listed as having 5 acres, restrooms, concessions/main cooking area, office, and projection room, box office, second concessions building, 2 storage sheds, and 300 parking spaces, as well as a playground area and outdoor seating!
It is currently listed for $500,000. You can view the listing by visiting the realtor website Verus Network.
he Skowhegan Drive-in is a single screen drive-in movie theater located in Skowhegan, Maine. The Skowhegan Drive-in has been open since 1954. This single screen drive-in operates seasonally form May through September.
IT went up for sale in 2022. The drive-in was extensively renovated an upgraded in 2021 with things such as new concession counters, a grill, fryer, alarm system, roof on the concessoin stand and a new digital projector. THe drive-in sites on about 11.6 acres and the current asking price is $350,000. If interested, you can contact the owner Don Brown via PM at the Skowgegan Drive-in's Facebook page.
Mesa Drive-in - SOLD
** Update as the Mesa Drive-in was sold in March of 2022 to new owners who intend to keep the drive-in operating which is great news. **
The Mesa Drive-in is a three screen drive-in located in Pubelo, Colorado which is about 2 hours south of Denver. The drive-in has been open since 1951. The current owners have been operating the Mesa Drive-in for the last 25 years and are ready to retire. The drive-in is still very popular and doing very well.
The drive-in is currently for sale with an asking price of $860,000 which includes 16 acres of land and all the furniture and equipment.
The Sunset Drive-in is a large, three screen drive-in located in Middleport, NY which is northern New York between Niagra Falls and Rochester. The drive-in is one of New York's oldest and has been operating for over 70 years. In addition to its three screens, it has had a fully functioning restaurant/diner with table seating and takeout.
The drive-in was listed for sale with an asking price of $1.5 million. It is currently closed.
For those that really want to take the plunge into drive-in ownership, one owner is selling two drive-ins, both located in Michigan. The 5 Mile Drive-in is a single screen drive-in located in Dowagiac, Michigan. Known as 'The Fiver', it has been operating since 1961. The Sunset Drive-in is also a single screen drive-in located in Hartford, Michigan. The Sunset has been operating since 1948.
Both drive-ins are located in the bottom portion of Michigan and the owner is selling them together. The asking price for both drive-ins is $449,000.
The Hi-Way Drive-in is a large 4 screen drive-in with a 600 car capacity located in Coxsackie, New York. It has been in continious operation since the 1950's. The current owners have owned the Hi-Way Drive-in since 1997 but are now in their 70's and are ready to retire. The Hi-Way Drive-in is listed for sale for $975,000.
Shankweiler’s Drive-in - SOLD in November, 2022
Shankweiler’s Drive-in is a single screen drive-in theater located in Orefield, PA and it is the most iconic on our list. Shankweiler’s was the second drive-in ever opened (way back in 1934) and is currently the oldest operating drive-in in the world.
The current owners are in their 60’s and have owned Shankweiler’s since 1984 but are looking to retire. They are asking $1.2 million for the 4 acre property which is still operating and making money.
The Weir’s Drive-in is located in Laconia, NH and is one of only three remaining drive-ins still operating in New Hampshire. It was opened in 1949. It is a large drive-in with 4 screens and a 1000 car capacity. The owner had an agreement to sell the drive-in last year to a developer who was going to tear it down and build condominiums on the land. However, that deal fell through over this past winter and so the Weir’s Drive-in is back open this season but still looking to sell. But you might need a little extra to buy the Weir’s Drive-in as it is the most expensive on our list at $2.5 million.
The Silver Drive-in is located in Johnstown, PA. It is a single screen drive-in that has been in continuous operation since 1950. As with our other drive-ins, the owner who is in his 70’s is looking to retire and slow down a little. He hopes he can find an owner to buy it and continue to operate it as a drive-in theater. Compared to the previously mentioned drive-ins, the Silver Drive-in is a bargain with an asking price of $699,000 for its 8 ½ acres of land. The Silver Drive-in converted to digital projection a few years back and is continuing to operate normally.
The Graham Drive-in is a single screen drive-in located in Graham, TX. It was opened in 1948 and is one of the oldest remaining drive-ins in Texas. Back in 2013, the Graham Drive-in won a contest sponsored by Honda awarding the winner the needed funds to convert from 35mm film to digital. The owners of the Graham are also looking to retire and are hopeful someone with their same passion for this drive-in will buy it and continue to operate it as it is an important fixture of the town of Graham. We do not have an asking price for the Graham, so maybe give them a call and make them an offer.
Cinemagic Drive-in - SOLD
Update as of July, 2022. The Cinemagic Drive-in was sold to a group who are planing to close the theaters and use what was the indoor theater as a church. So the drive-in will cease to exist.
The Cinemagic Drive-in is a single screen drive-in located in Athens, Alabama. It has been open since 1997. There is also an indoor theater with 5 screens. The current owner is looking to retire and is asking $1.75 Million which includes the drive-in and the 5 screen indoor theater which all sit on about 4 acres.
The owner of the Cinemagic Drive-in has now announced that he is closing the drive-in and the indoor theater with its last day being July 31, 2022. The theaters will remain for sale but will no longer be operating after this time.
The Skyview Drive-in is located in Litchfield, Illinois and is the last operating drive-in along the famed Route 66 in Illinois. The Skyview has been open since 1950 and has been upgraded. 16 Acre Theater with Grass Play Areas, a 42′ x 52′ Movie Screen, 13 Rows of Parking accommodates. 1950s Era Concession Stand refurbished in 2011 and a 1950s style double lane Ticket Booth.
At the time of this writing, the Skyview is currently for sale for $395,000.
For more info contact: John Eichenlaub at 618.277.4400.
The Can View Drive-in is a large, four screen drive-in movie theater located in Fonthill, Ontario, Canada. It is the largest drive-in located in Ontario, Canada. with 4 screens. It is only 10 minutes from Niagra Falls.
At the time of this writing, the Can-View Drive-in is currently for sale for $10.8 million. The property is 84 acres and is only about 10 minutes from Niagra Falls. While the drive-in could certainly be purchased and operated as a drive-in, it appears they are marketing it for sale as commercial proprety with development potential. So at that asking price, if sold, it is almost certain the drive-in will be torn down and the land developed.
The Showboat Drive-in is a twin screen drive-in movie theater located in Hockley, TX which is about 40 miles outside of Houston, TX. The Showboat drive-in is a newcomer in the drive-in industry as it was just opened in 2006. Opened as a single screen venue, the owners added a second screen in 2007. They are open year round and show double features on their two screens nightly during the summer and on weekends only during the rest of the year.
Listed in Febraury of 2023, the Showboat Drive-in is for sale for $5.5M.
Unadilla Drive-in - SOLD
The Unadilla Drive-in was sold in April of 2022 to Jason and Julie Miller who plan to continue to operate the Unadialla Drive-in as usual.
The Unadilla Drive-in is a single screen drive-in theater located in Unadilla, New York. It has been open since 1956 and is set in an idealic country setting. It has been owned and operated by the Wilson family for the last 27 years and now they are ready to pass the torch.
No price or details of acreage was posted, but the family posted on the Unadilla Drive-in Facebook page in March of 2022 that they are looking to sell the drive-in. If interested, you are asked to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tascosa Drive-in is a single screen drive-in movie theater located in Amarillo, Texas. It has been open since 1952. Originally a twin screen drive-in, one of the screens was destroyed by fire in the late 1970's and it has operated as a single screen drive-in since.
The owners have owned and operated it since the late 1990's and are selling so they can retire. The current listing states there drive-in has 7.6 acres and is listed for $700,000. You can see the sale listing at Loopnet.