America's Best Outdoor Movie Theaters

by Travel + Leisure Subscribe to Travel + Leisure's posts Posted Jul 23rd 2011 08:00 AM



The hush that falls over those gathered at Hollywood Forever Cemetery isn't just a sign of respect for the dead. On select evenings, it signals that a blockbuster movie screening is beginning.

The cemetery movie series is an unexpected-yet-perfect way to pay tribute to legends like Rudolph Valentino and John Huston. "You're literally a few feet from someone who has worked on these movies," says Cinespia series cofounder John Wyatt.

Even as drive-ins have declined, a new breed of outdoor movie theaters has been expanding across the U.S., cropping up in cemeteries, parks, even on rooftops. It's become a modern summer ritual to head to an open-air theater and stake out a prime viewing spot before sunset - whether for a date night or girls' night. Often the appeal is less about the movie itself than about the chance to get together and enjoy a beautiful setting on a balmy evening.

"A huge majority of the audience is coming for the experience," says Ethan Lercher of the Bryant Park Corporation, which runs the free HBO Bryant Park film festival in New York City. "The whole idea is that you talk to your neighbors."

For serious movie buffs, an outdoor theater provides the rare opportunity to watch a classic on a big screen. Unlike cookie-cutter multiplexes, these theaters have a nostalgic allure that recalls the 1960s, when America's love affair with the movies was still a budding romance. "These outdoor screenings are reminiscent of the drive-ins that baby boomers grew up with," explains Tom Boss, who cofounded the Bay Area's Film Night. In Minneapolis, the Summer Music & Movies program travels back even further to the earliest days of the silver screen, presenting silent films with a live musical accompaniment.

But outdoor movie screenings aren't just about old-time Hollywood. They can be forward-looking and bring fresh life to city neighborhoods. The NoMa SummerScreen festival launched in 2008 as part of a development and revitalization initiative in D.C., complete with trendy barbecue and gelato trucks. Each season follows a theme, and 2011 will represents trains through films ranging from "Some Like It Hot" to "Slumdog Millionaire."

It just wouldn't be summer without the thrills of a Hollywood hit combined with the pleasure of soaking up the outdoors at one of these alfresco movie theaters.

How to Make a Backyard Home Theater

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ahhhh yasssss...the outdoor drive in movie..the sacrifical and holy ground for virgins

July 26 2011 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

leola frizz and freeze shows a movie onece a week and theyre ice cream is amazing and so is their food :)

July 26 2011 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Me and my brother Run a monthly Film Festival that started in our back yard just a year ago and now we rent out a school room to showcase our films. We just got a really nice projector and for a very small amount of money!

July 26 2011 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the best years of my life were at the drive in eating burgers and hot dogs and making love.

July 26 2011 at 6:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

While in Granbury, Texas, a small lake community just 30 minutes SW of Fort Worth, check out the
Brazos Drive-In, 1800 W. Pearl St. Lots of fun...and a great little town for boating, shopping & antiques, restaurants, rodeo, horse farms & ranches; just a short drive to "get away from it all in the big city".

July 26 2011 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
William Bayne

Greenville S.C. has movie nights in downtown by the Reedy river behind the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. Great family oriented and free.

July 26 2011 at 5:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Pretty tough to not include the Maui Film Festival. Giant screen on the Wailea golf course or even the films shown on Wailea Beach!!!!! Beat that one.

July 26 2011 at 4:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes, Red Rocks is astounding!! What a treat to live in Colorado and be able to experience concerts and movies there. Last night, a sold out showing (over 9,000 people) of The Goonies!! :D

July 26 2011 at 4:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Movies shown in the parks in summer is a great concept. However, I unknowingly was taken to the Hollywood Forever Cemetary for a surprise picnic/movie date night. It was the most awkward feeling I've ever had. I don't think I would appreciate people partying and stomping all over my family member's final resting place. People were leaning on gravestones as if it were an amusement park. I felt it was a total disrespect for the deceased. Not a fan at all and never would go back. The parks are one thing, a cemetary....I think NOT!!

July 26 2011 at 4:36 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to larodriguez823's comment

The dead probably don't mind.

July 26 2011 at 4:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The real deal: Milford Drive In Movie Theater, 531 Elm Street, Milford, NH 03055 • (603) 673-4090

July 26 2011 at 3:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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