Hitting the open road is always awesome – but so is the time-honored tradition of watching a movie at the drive-in. A staple of the 1950s into the 1970s, drive-in movie theaters have fallen on hard times over the last few decades, but these places continue to offer the experience, with updates. Some are older and traditional, some are newer “pop-ups”; all provide a fun experience in the great Wisconsin outdoors… from in your vehicle.
Along with movies, by the way, the Encore Drive-In Nights Concert Series brings streams of live concerts to drive-ins all across the country, including here in Wisconsin. Artists like Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, and Metallica have already performed; the September artist is Kane Brown, happening Saturday night, September 26th. It’s definitely another fun way to spend an evening!
Stardust Drive-In, Chetek
The Stardust two-screen drive-in in Chetek wasted no time at all opening back up, having done so in mid-May. They show movies seven nights a week! One screen leans towards family-friendly fare and the more adult-oriented movies, like horror thrillers and the like, play on the other screen. Gates open at 6:30pm and movies typically start around 8:40pm. Ticket prices are $8.50 for adults (13 and up) and $4.50 for children, ages 5-12. The Orbit is a playground and train ride area for kids, but it’s still shut down for now. They ask that everyone park six feet apart and stay in their cars unless it’s to get concessions or use the restroom. However, because of the current trends, they are allowing you to sit on your car to watch the films, provided you maintain social distancing with others. Hey, baby steps, right??
Stardust is featuring Alone and The Broken Hearts Gallery on Screen 1 and Harry Potter & the Sorcerers Stone and Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets on Screen 2 through the weekend. You can tickets and more info here!
River’s Edge Drive-In, New Richmond
River’s Edge offers a 56-foot digital screen with weekend matinees starting at 5pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and evening double features at 8pm Friday and Saturday nights. Well-behaved pets are allowed; dogs must be leashed if they are outside your vehicle. Grills aren’t allowed – we never even thought of bringing one – but it says on their site they’re working on ways to allow them in (BBQ, anyone??) Gates open an hour before each show, and they accept cash and credit cards for both admission and concessions. You can buy tickets in advance, too.
River’s Edge isn’t showing movies during September due to other events, but stay tuned for other possible showings!
Big Sky Twin Drive-In, Wisconsin Dells
The Big Sky is located just southeast of Wisconsin Dells, right where Highways 16 and 127 meet up. Two full-sized screens play 2-for-1 first-run feature films. It opens at 7:30pm and movies begin around dusk. Well-behaved pets are welcomed. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids under 11. Two other things of note: 1) Bring cash, because The Big Sky does not take credit or debit cards; and 2) Bring lots of cash, because you’ll probably want to try their famous Big Mamaburger, the featured culinary delight from their concession stand!
This weekend (Friday-Sunday, September 18th-20th), the Big Sky is showing It and It: Chapter 2 on Screen 1, and Jumanji: The Next Level and Bloodshot on Screen 2.
Skyway Drive-In Theater, Fish Creek
The Skyway, right along good ol’ Highway 42, is Door County’s classic drive-in. It opened back in 1950 and has hung on ever since, keeping up the quality and offering FM radio for audio reception as well as some remaining classic speakers for your car in the first few rows. Pets are welcome, as long as they behave – but I suspect that goes for humans, too. Tickets are $9 for people 12 and up, $5 for kids ages 5-11. Bring cash (they don’t take cards, either) for the movies and the concession stand, where they offer all the basics along with some fun stuff like foot-long hot dogs and ice cream novelties.
This Friday and Saturday (September 18th-19th), they’re showing Footloose and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Moonlight Outdoor Theater, Shawano
1494 E. Green Bay St (Highway 22 & Business Highway 29)., Shawano
Shawano Cinema & Moonlight Outdoor Theater Facebook Page
“Moonlight” is the name for the retro-style outdoor movies shown at the Shawano Cinema, which offers indoor movies all year ’round and the drive-in option when weather permits, and right now most of the time, it permits. Tickets are a great deal for a double feature, $8 for adults and $3 for kids. The Moonlight Outdoor Theater typically offers double-features Thursday through Sunday, in season. Movies generally start a little after dusk, currently around 8:15pm.
Our latest update from the Moonlight is that their indoor theater has re-opened (with social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions) and Tenet will be showing on select nights outdoors.
Field of Scenes Outdoor Theater, Freedom
Big on puns but believing if they built it, they would come, Field of Scenes opened in 2003 right along Highway 55 in Freedom, just north of Kaukauna and I-41. and having opened in 2003, Field of Scenes features two screens and double features; tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for kids 11 and under. There has been a $20 carry-in fee since they weren’t selling concessions due to COVID-19, but you were able to carry in (almost) whatever you wanted. However, the concession stand has partially reopened, so that mandatory fee has been dropped. There’s been some question as to whether people can still pay the $20 fee and bring in a bunch of their own food and drink; we scanned their Facebook page and at last check we don’t know for sure. Also, while their COVID-19 rules currently bar you from enjoying these amenities, Field of Scenes normally also offers two playgrounds, a basketball court and a volleyball court to keep kids occupied before the movies start.
Field of Scenes closed for the season after Labor Day, but we’re looking forward to spring!
Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater, Chilton
A 2012 addition to the state’s drive-in lineup, the Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater is usually open Wednesdays through Sundays (weather permitting, of course) for double features. During non-social-distancing times, they also offer a mini-golf course. They’ve been back open and showing movies since mid-May. This Friday the 18th and next Friday the 25th they’re showing Kung Fu Panda followed by Back to the Future. They’re also showing the Kane Brown concert on Saturday the 26th and plan on showing movies into October, weather permitting.
Goetz’ Sky-Vu Drive-In, Monroe
Just south of Monroe on Highway 69, you’ll find the Sky-Vu, a sister theater for the Goetz in downtown Monroe. The Sky-Vu has weathered all kinds of conditions since 1954 and is now in its 66th season. They’ve been fully digital since 2012, the concession stand is open, and they’re welcoming cash-paying guests – they don’t take cards either – for the rest of the season. They bill themselves as “where the stars come to play at night”; gates open at 7:15 Friday and Saturday night, 7:45pm on Sunday night.
This weekend, Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th, Goetz’ Sky-Vu is showing Back to the Future followed by Back to the Future 2, with additional showings of Back to the Future only Sunday the 20th. They will also be showing the Drive-In Movie Concert featuring Kane Brown on September 26th, and they have ticket specials!
Highway 18 Outdoor Theater, Jefferson
W6423 US Highway 18 (and Highway 89), Jefferson
Billing itself as “Wisconsin’s First Digital Cinema Drive-In,” the Highway 18 technically opened for the season on Wednesday, June 10th but the weather didn’t cooperate. The weather should cooperate through the weekend, and the Highway 18 Outdoor is offering two-for-one movie nights for $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 5-11 and $8 for seniors over 65 along with duty military personnel. Unlike several of these drive-ins, the Highway 18 Outdoor does accept credit cards. No checks… but who writes checks now?
Admission to the grounds begins at 6:30pm Fridays and Saturdays, 8pm Sundays through Thursdays. For audio, you have the choice of the old-school speakers or listening on a low power FM station. The neon retro sign beckons you in, right along U.S. 18 and Highway 89, just west of Highway 26 bypass of Jefferson.
This Friday and Saturday night (September 18th and 19th), Highway 18 Outdoor is showing Raiders of the Lost Ark followed by The Longest Yard. They do have some specific COVID-19 policies, see them on their website.
Also, the group Titan Fun Key made a video about the Highway 18 Outdoor. See it here:
Starlite 14 Drive-In, Richland Center
U.S. Highway 14 East
Richland Center, WI 53581
Starlite 14 Facebook Page
The Starlite is truly an original classic, having started in 1953. Like many “old school” drive-ins, it fell on hard times for quite a while and even shut down for quite a few years. But new owners bought it, refurbished it, modernized the sound system, did a deep clean, and with this “COVID era,” it’s seen quite a resurrection, starting back up this July. The old metal stands holding the speakers are gone, and now a low power FM signal gives viewers in their cars the sound they need for the movies they watch on the 60′ x 38′ screen.
You’ll find the Starlite 14 right along its namesake, U.S. 14, on the south side of Richland Center.
The Starlite complements its movie selections with occasional car shows, private events, and streams of live concerts. This Friday, September 18th and Saturday the 19th, they’ll be showing The Goonies followed by Tenet. More weekend movies are in the works through the month!
Duck Pond Drive-In, Madison
While Warner Park in Madison – famously known as the “Duck Pond” – sits empty due to the Madison Mallards of the Northwoods League not playing any games, it serves instead as a “pop-up” drive-in for the Madison area. At the Duck Pond Drive-In, you can $25 per car for one or two people total, $40 per car for three people or more. The movies are shown on a large digital screen inside the ballpark.
You’ll find Warner Park just off Highway 113 on the north side of Madison.
On Thursday night September 17th, The Duck Pond is showing Step Brothers. On Wednesday, September 23rd, they’ll have Ice Age with Pitch Perfect showing the following night, Thursday, September 24th. Friday, September 25th is a double feature with Shrek followed by Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
The Milky Way Drive-In, Franklin
7035 S. Ballpark Drive., Franklin
Just off Highway 36 in the southern Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, The Milky Way is a “pop-up” drive-in, showing movies in the parking lot of the stadium where the relatively new Northwoods League baseball team, the Milwaukee Milkmen, play. this new drive-in hotspot costs $35 per vehicle per movie, bring however many people you want in the vehicle. Carhops can deiver food and beverages from the food trucks around, as well as the concession stands that would normally serve baseball fans. An app will allow you to order food and drinks, as well as listen to the movie’s audio (outdoor speakers and an FM station option also provide the sound.)
This Saturday night the 19th they’re showing A League of Their Own. Looking further ahead, Friday the 25th features Raiders of the Lost Ark and Saturday, October 3rd looks to round out the season with Shrek. Hit their website for any updates!