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Drive-In Movie Theaters

Warm, Clear Nights Bring Back a Beloved Summer Pastime


Four classic drive-in movie theaters still operate in NEPA.

The grass is cool underfoot. A breeze swirls around cars and lawn chairs. Children play and giggle in recesses here and there. A quintessentially summertime tincture of bug spray, distant, lingering popcorn and fresh air mixes and rises in tribute to the blue-black night sky. A hush settles on the scene. Children shush and return to their parents. Flip flops slapping heels in a frantic dash from the snack bar to the car is all that’s heard – their volume and frequency waning. Soon, it’s quiet. In the darkness, all eyes — young, old, wistful, skeptical — alight with the promise of a temporary escape on a perfect summer night. There’s nothing quite like an evening at one of NEPA’s classic drive-in movie theaters.

Drive-in theaters combine all the excitement of going to the movies with a little nostalgia and a beautiful, starry sky.  Though they reached the height of their popularity during the 50s and 60s, the number of drive-in theaters across America has steadily waned since. There were once over 4,000 such theaters across the country, and now there are roughly 330. In fact, in several states, there are none left at all. And while it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep these midcentury marvels up and running, Northeastern Pennsylvania’s love for the unique summer amusement is still going strong.

NEPA is currently home to four classic drive-in movie theaters. Let’s take a look.


The Garden Drive-In Theater — Hunlock Creek, PA



A central Luzerne County icon.

For over 65 years, this Hunlock Creek drive-in has been one of NEPA’s hottest places to catch a summer flick. Locals have flocked to the Garden Drive-In every summer since it opened in 1952. At the time, the drive-in theater had only one screen and just enough room for about 325 cars. The feature films played through crackling in-car speakers, and it’s likely that a popcorn would only set you back about a dime.

Today, the Garden Drive-In has expanded to fit over 600 cars. They also added a second screen and a fully digital projection system. Each modern blockbuster now plays through an FM radio broadcast. All of the updated amenities mean you get that same, classic drive-in movie feeling with crisp picture and sound quality. The Garden also features a centrally-located snack bar with everything from burgers and fries to cotton candy and ice cream. And of course, they have popcorn.

Load up the car and catch the next major summer movie at the Garden Drive-In. Stop by on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Movies always start at 9 p.m., or as darkness permits. And each screen features two films for the price of one. The drive-in also converts to one of NEPA’s largest flea markets every Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.


The Circle Drive-In — Dickson City, PA



Vintage design meets modern times.

You’ll find this classic American drive-in theater along NEPA’s famous Route 6, just about 6 miles north of Downtown Scranton. Since 1949, the Circle Drive-In has been a central Lackawanna County gathering place. The semicircular design allows for optimal viewing for over 800 cars. The Circle became more and more popular as the region’s economy began to boom and improved highway access allowed for visitors from many miles away.

As the decades rolled by, the Circle Drive-In added a second screen and room for even more cars. And eventually, they switched to a fully digitized projection and sound system. The convenient, circular parking configuration makes for greater ease of access. There is also a full-service, centrally-located snack bar featuring pizza, pierogies and so much more.

The Circle Drive-In is open all weekend. Each screen shows two contemporary features per night. Like many other drive-in theaters, it transforms into a massive flea market on Sundays. Stop by for bargains on everything from antiques to handmade items. And in October, be sure to check out their incredible haunted attraction, Circle of Screams.


The Mahoning Drive-In Theater — Lehighton, PA



Staying true.

Take a trip back in time at this rural Lehighton gem. The Mahoning Drive-In Theater is NEPA’s oldest. This classic drive-in opened up in 1948. The Mahoning features a semi-circular parking configuration and the largest Cinemascope screen in all of Pennsylvania. This theater stays true to traditional drive-in roots by featuring classic double features on 35mm film. They also regularly host themed feature nights and throwback film fests.

The Mahoning has made a name for itself as a steward of the timeless drive-in movie experience. Every weekend, you’ll find families, couples, costumed aficionados and so much more. From the marquis to the snack bar to the wild bunch running the place, there exudes a genuine, infectious love for the magic of film.

Head to the Mahoning every weekend for classic horror, goofy old comedies and the occasional contemporary feature. They even offer special overnight passes for out of town visitors, or those who just love to camp out. And be sure to stop in the snack bar where, among the usual goodies, you’ll find a few retro arcade games and various vendors. You just can’t find a truly unique drive-in experience like this anywhere else.


The Moonlite Drive-In — West Wyoming, PA



A triumphant return to glory.

After closing, seemingly for good, in the late 80s, this popular West Wyoming hangout had given way to weedy reclamation. High grass crept back into the worn, station wagon-sized stalls. The monolithic screen wore cracks and broken panels like tattoos of neglect. The concession stand remained, only now, more or less, as a monument to that particular kind of “every-town” vandalism. And the classic marquee – once an entreating promise of temporary escape – long ceded its physical faculty. The whole site toed the edge between living memory and those borne away with the smiles and stolen kisses of a fleeting generation.

For just over 30 years, the Moonlite Drive-In sat vacant. Then, in October of 2019, by the grace of one nostalgic soul, this nearly forgotten icon was once again flooded by a stream of headlights. Vehicles crowded in. Lawn chairs squeaked into position. Children bobbed their heads in and out of rows, navigating back to mom and dad with armfuls of popcorn and sweets. Suddenly, the bustle of a Friday night picture show on the “back road” was a welcomed sight.

The new and improved Moonlite Drive-In features a modern, digital projection system. The remodeled, yet still-old-school concession stand offers all the usual movie theater treats. And there’s enough room to comfortably fit up to 400 vehicles. The Moonlite offers classic and contemporary double features every weekend. Check them out on social media for updates regarding showtimes and weekend show listings.

Due to ongoing COVID-19 mitigation and social distancing efforts, drive-in movie theaters across NEPA may have slightly adjusted their typical operating procedures. Depending on your theater’s individual guidelines, you may experience the following: Vehicles must remain 6 feet apart. Guests must watch the movies from inside their vehicles. Masks are required when outside of vehicle. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Concession stand ordering and payment procedures may have been altered or temporarily suspended. Please check with each individual theater concerning specific changes.

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