Haven’t you heard? Retro is cool again. And in the many years since its heyday in the ’50s, drive-in movie theaters still offer a fun and affordable option for a night out with the family. Dallas-Fort Worth has got a handful of new-ish and decades-old outdoor theaters to choose from, including one that’s easily our favorite for maximum family fun.
Here, we give you the highlights so you can plan for your next weekend (or weekday!) night out. All movies begin at the sun goes down, so come before sunset to settle into a parking spot, and pop open your tailgate (or hatch) and start popping that popcorn. Check back here during the summer months when we’ll add more info about the pop-up movie screenings often hosted outdoors in Dallas and surrounding cities.
Our favorite destination is here at Coyote, which opened back in 2013. It’s at a great central location too, just across the river from downtown Fort Worth and close by the Stockyards. Right now movies are single showings (rather than double features) every day of the week. Book your tickets online or through the Coyote Drive-In app (worth having on your phone if you’re a cinephile).
You’ll want to arrive early to avoid lines and let the littles play in the children’s play area to shake their sillies out before the movie. Dogs are welcome, too! During the winter season, you can ice skate under the pavilion. Unfortunately no outside food or drinks is allowed, but you can order from the concession pavilion starting at 6pm and have the treats delivered to your vehicle once it’s ready so you don’t miss any part of the show.
Regular tickets are $8 for adults for 12 and older; $5 for children 5–11; free for 4 and younger. $5 on Wednesdays. Follow on Facebook and Instagram @coyotedrivein for the most up-to-date information.
223 NE 4th Street, Fort Worth; 817/717-7767
Ennis, the North Texas town best known for its bluebonnets also boasts the Galaxy Drive-In, North Texas’ biggest drive-in movie theater with seven screens and a retro atmosphere thanks to the concession stand and putt-putt out front. Open since 2004, this theater is only a 30-minute drive south of downtown and the closest consistently-open option for Dallasites.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children and available for purchase at the box office when you enter. Check the website for upcoming screenings (single features) and visit their Facebook page for the most up-to-date info.
5301 I-45, Ennis; 972/875-5505
Located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, this 1931 theater with an infamous past offers an alternative to the usual blockbusters. They offer a range of classics and cult classics (some of them family-friendly, some of them not), and even horror films, so of course use your judgment when taking the kids. This mini drive-in is held in the parking lot behind the theater facing Sunset Avenue is co-presented by the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and the Oak Cliff Film Society.
Lot opens an hour before showtime on movie nights, and you only need one ticket per vehicle. Prices vary by movie. You can also order snacks, drinks and Texas Theatre merchandise via your phone for it to be delivered to your car. Note that this is set up to be a socially distant drive-in, so you must remain inside your vehicle or in the bed of your truck. Most of their movie showings are inside the theater, so look online for which movies they have slated for indoors and outdoors.
231 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas; 214/948-1546
These theaters are closed for the season. Check back for their 2022 reopening dates.
This family-owned theater 45 minutes southwest of Fort Worth has been in continuous operation since 1952. Watch from your vehicle or from the porch chairs at the full-service snack bar. The drive-in is typically open on weekends during the summer for features on its single screen. With tickets sold by the carload, it’s one of the cheapest family date nights around. Check back on their Facebook page for when they announce their return for 2022.
1800 W Pearl St., Granbury; 817/573-1311
Opening in 1948, the Graham Drive-In is one of the oldest drive-in theaters in the state, according to the Texas Film Commission. This small-town drive-in, about 90 miles west of Fort Worth, is also open during the summer season on weekends, so your last chance to catch a double feature here for the 2021 season is December 10 and 11. Tickets are $7 adults; $5 for seniors, military and children 5–11; free for 4 and younger. Check back on the theater’s Facebook page for updates when the season reopens in March or April, or email grahamdr
1519 4th Street, Graham; 940/549-8478
Gone but not forgotten
OK maybe we shouldn’t include this one because sadly it closed up shop in late October 2021, but let us reminisce. This “rooftop” (not a drive-in) theater opened for a summer/fall stint at Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park. We loved it because of the outdoor setting with adjustable deckchairs and bean bags set up in front of the big screen and the wireless headphones to wear during the show, plus all the drinks and games to enjoy before each screening. Rooftop Cinema Club is making the rounds to other cities like Houston. Sign up for their email list or follow on social to stay in the know about their possible future return. Rooftop, if you can hear us, please come back! We heart you.
Photo courtesy of Coyote Drive-In