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a drone view of a large drive-in screen with cars parked in front. people mingling outside a food truck on the right, and a sunset view of Houston’s skyline in the background

A Comprehensive Guide to Houston’s Drive-In Movie Theaters

Missing the movie experience? Here’s where to see new and classic films, with plenty of snacks for munching during the show

Moonstruck Drive In Cinema east of Downtown
| Moonstruck Drive In Cinema/Facebook

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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 became known as the Year of the Drive In Theater. With traditional movie houses closed for much of the year and quarantined Americans looking for any way to get safely out of the house, these relics of yesteryear suddenly made a comeback, with new technology, mostly better food, and a new importance in the collective movie-going experience. Many of the theaters that opened in 2020 have remained open, and some seasonal outdoor theaters are just firing up their summer schedules.

There’s a few things to know before heading to one of the theaters below. First of all, screenings can be highly dependent on weather, with rain and wind sometimes leading to cancellations. Second, most drive-ins require that you tune into a latent FM station in order to hear the audio. Make sure your car has FM radio, or bring a portable one. (Radio apps will not work.)

For the most part, movie tickets at drive-ins are charged by the carload — which usually means how many seat belts the car has (no cramming anyone into the trunk to sneak them in.) Secondly, rules vary by theater — some require you to turn off your car, some do not allow outside food or drink, and others will let movie-watchers “tailgate.” Mainly, be sure to check each theater’s rules and FAQs before heading out for movie night. (Eater Austin has more tips to enhance your drive-in experience.)

If you’ve binged everything on your Netflix to-watch list and your sick of looking at the inside of your house, here are five drive-in theater options in and around Houston.

a black and white image of a large drive-in theater screen. In the background there are tents and people sitting at picnic benches. On the screen is a man holding a microphone.
Showboat Drive In just outside of Houston.
Showboat Drive In/Facebook

Showboat Drive In

Where: 22422 FM 2920, Hockley, TX
What’s on the screen: Mostly new releases, two screenings a night
The food situation: Plenty of movie theater fare, candy, sodas and popcorn

For a more traditional drive-in experience, head just outside of Tomball to Hockely, Texas, and the Showboat Drive In. Though it was founded in 2006, Showboat evokes the looming midcentury drive-ins that once dotted nearly every cow town in Texas. Movies here are mostly new releases, including Cruella and Fast and Furious 9, plus family-friendly screenings. The two screens are 40x80 feet each.

Food-wise, expect state fair-style concessions, with lots of options, including jalapeño poppers, cheesy fries, funnel cakes, candy and of course popcorn. Food is ordered through the FanFare app for pick-up at the concession stand.

Ticketing at Showboat comes in two forms — individual and carload, depending on the screening. Individual tickets start at $8 each. Carload prices vary.

Moonstruck Drive In Cinema

Where: 100 Bringhurst Street
What’s on the screen: Hotly anticipated new releases, with new schedules released every Monday
The food situation: Food trucks on rotation, beer and wine and concessions provided by The New Potato. Outside food and drink is prohibited.

Moonstruck bills itself as Houston’s first and only permanent drive in movie theater, and is part of the brand-new East River development east of Downtown on the Northern banks of Buffalo Bayou. It’s a partnership between outdoor movie company Blue Moon Cinema and Showboat Drive In in Hockley, Texas. Current screenings include In The Heights and A Quiet Place 2.

Food includes a selection of food trucks on Saturdays. Concessions and alcoholic drinks are provided by nearby bar The New Potato. Tickets are $25 per car.

people in a lit car watching a film on a large screen at a drive-in theater
Houston’s newest drive-in theater, MovieNight
MovieNight Houston/Facebook

MovieNight Houston

Where: 6930 Furay Avenue
What’s on the screen: Nostalgic classics, Oscar winners, and family-friendly films
The food situation: Popcorn, candy, drinks, plus an option to pay for outside food

Houston’s newest drive-in shows older movies — the epic 1993 Western Tombstone is playing on Father’s Day, plus recent Oscar winners like One Night in Miami and kid-friendly films like Raya and the Last Dragon.

Food includes typical movie theater concessions, but MovieNight has come up with a creative solution to the outside food situation. Film-goers have the option to pay a $15 upgrade when they buy tickets, which will allow the ticket-holder to bring in outside food. (MovieNight says they allows this option because movie theaters thrive on concession sales.)

Tickets are $22 per car, or $30 for premium parking.

Market Square Park

Where: 301 Milam Street
What’s on the screen: Black-and-white classics
The food situation: BYO from nearby restaurants

Though it’s not technically a drive-in, the biweekly summer movie nights at Market Square Park are one of Houston’s oldest outdoor film traditions. Movies are mostly Old Hollywood classics — this season’s roster includes Rear Window, Some Like It Hot, and Sabrina. Entry is free and movie-goers can bring blankets and law chairs.

Food is available from nearby restaurants like Niko Nikos and Frank’s Pizza, or bring your own. Find the full schedule of films here.

Rooftop Cinema Club

Where: 1700 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, Texas 77056
What’s on the screen: Mostly new releases, two screenings a night
The food situation: Plenty of movie theater fare, candy, sodas and popcorn

This theater, which got its start at Sawyer Yards, now has two locations, one on Navigation and one on Post Oak Boulevard. The Navigation spot is currently on haitus, but a schedule for Post Oak will be released later this summer. Previous films have included Ghostbusters, Dazed and Confused and The Fifth Element to indies like The King of Staten Island and The High Note.

Food is the standard movie theater fare — popcorn, sodas, and candy like Hot Tamales and Reeses Pieces, and movie-goers can bring their own. Sign up for the newsletter for screening updates.

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