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Destinations & Day Trips

Spend a Night at One of CT’s Finest Drive-In Movie Theaters

Written by Ryan Sylvestre

Everyone loves a good trip to their local drive-in movie theatre. There’s just something about the experience—the nostalgia, the snacks, the flicks—that does it for most of us. Looking to recreate that drive-in experience today? Check out one of CT’s three authentic drive-in movie theaters.

If you’re looking for something truly different to do now that the weather is getting nice again, let me suggest that you take a step back into the 1950’s to enjoy one of the best weekend pastimes: Catching a movie at a drive-in theatre!

Drive-in movie theaters are hard to find now—there are only around 400 left in the United States. But don’t worry, Connecticut is home to three drive-ins of its own, surprising given how small our state is.

Where are CT’s drive-ins? You’ll find one located in Southington, Mansfield, and Barkhamsted. Though each has faced potential closure here and there throughout recent history, the communities served by each have always come together to keep them in operation, and for a simple reason: Drive-ins offer their communities a chance to get away and remember an easier, simpler time.

Drive-in theaters were originally built to try to grow the movie-making industry; now they serve as a place to spend summer nights and enjoy new and classic movies. Whether you are trying to relive memories or make new ones, a drive-in will never fail to bring a smile to your face: Perfect for first dates, weekend day trips with the kids, and even a special treat for your parents (or grandparents).

Without further ado, here is everything you need to know about CT’s three drive-in movie theatres.

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1. The Original Southington Drive-In—Southington

 The Original Southington Drive-In

Southington Drive-In has been around since all the way back in 1955. It has been so successful that it is one of just three remaining in the state. Though they still play newer movies every so often during, they tend to focus on older classics such as ET, Jaws, The Sandlot, and the like. If you’re a classic movie buff, there’s no better way to spend a summer night than tuning into a radio station to listen to a classic movie while enjoying delicious burgers from the concession stand and reliving childhood memories.

Though the original Southington Drive-in ended its time as a for-profit business in 2002, the Southington community came together in 2004 to purchase the land and business, save it from development, and preserve the theatre. It is now operated as a community-owned, volunteer-operated theatre.

The drive-in season typically runs from early June through September or October. When in season, they open their gates at 6pm, and movies begin at sunset. They charge $10 per car-load for Southington residents and $15 a car-load for non-residents.

2. Mansfield Drive-In—Mansfield

Mansfield Drive-In

Want to learn a fun fact? The Mansfield Drive-In doubles as a flea market, and it’s known as the largest flea market in Eastern Connecticut. It opens up every Sunday from 8am to 2pm.

The drive-in portion opened in 1954 and continues to draw a pretty big crowd. Some people drive up to an hour just to come by and watch a movie.

The Mansfield Drive-in has three different screens, all of which show double features. While drive-ins are known for classic movies, this one regularly features new hits as well as age-old favorites. The main screen is 55 feet by 110 feet, while the others are somewhat smaller.

The snack bar has a classic concession stand menu of hotdogs and hamburgers accompanied by curly fries, nachos, fried dough, and other tasty treats.  

Movies start at 8pm, so make sure to be on time. Adult tickets are $9.99. Children’s are $6.99 if you buy online and one dollar more if you wait to buy them at the gate.

3. Pleasant Valley Drive-In—Barkhamsted

Pleasant Valley Drive-In

Bought in 1996, Pleasant Valley Drive-in in Barkhamsted is co-owned by Donna and Tim McGrane, who aim to maintain the theatre as a time machine back into the 1950s. As such, the drive-in has a wholesome, family feel to it.

The theatre tends to feature two movies each weekend (one on Friday and a different one on Saturday) which tend to be modern flicks, though classics sometimes work their way into the mix.

Their concession stand offers the classics, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers, pizza, french fries, and more. You can even grab some ice cream while you’re there, perfect for a hot summer night.

If you and your friends all love a good drive-in, you’ll like their Friday “$20 Carload” nights. Just load up your car with your friends and/or family, bring a $20-bill, and you’re ready to enjoy a movie. Regular admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. 

What do you think?

Do you have any particularly special memories of times that you’ve spent at the drive-in with people that you love? Do you have memories of other drive-ins that have closed since their heyday? Let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear more about what makes these drive-ins so special in the minds of CT’s resident.


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Ryan Sylvestre

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