The (New) Unspoken Rules Of Drive-In Theaters

Tibbs Drive-In

Tony Valainis

The future of summer activities may still be a bit uncertain, but as the state begins to reopen, many Hoosiers are returning to a bygone era of entertainment. With warmer nights and indoor movie options limited to your living quarters, drive-in theaters are making a historic comeback.

Tibbs Drive-In, the only one left within Indianapolis’s city limits, will open this weekend, May 8–10. The outdoor westside cinema normally plays the latest Hollywood blockbusters on its four screens, but this summer it will mix in classic movies, as many new releases are being pushed back. Celebrating its 70th anniversary, the Centerbrook Drive-In in Martinsville will also open this weekend, adhering to new COVID-19 policies. Shelbyville’s Skyline Drive-In Theatre (also 70 this year) has had its concession stand open for carryout service since March, using the FanFood app for minimal interaction. They powered up the projector in early April to half-capacity crowds (keeping cars farther separated than usual) and have seen a line to get in every weekend.

If you go, remember these Unspoken Rules:

  • ­We get it—you’re ready to wear something without an elastic waistband. But you don’t need to dress to impress at the drive-in. Quarantine clothes work.
  • Nostalgic window speakers are a thing of the past. These days, you’ll need to bring your own radio.
  • If you are using your car stereo, set your key to auxiliary so you don’t drain the battery.
  • Throw in the jumper cables just in case. Better yet, a portable battery charger so you don’t have to approach another movie-goer.
  • Theater rules are a bit more relaxed at the drive-in, but be respectful (and don’t relax your social distancing standards until the time is right).
  • Movies won’t start until it’s dark, so bring something to do until then, especially for the kids. Remember, the playgrounds and arcades are still closed.
  • And try to have those kids snoozing by the second feature—it isn’t always family-friendly.
  • Almost every drive-in in Indiana is a locally owned, small, seasonal business. Order from the concession stand instead of sneaking in snacks. Check for an app before you leave home.
  • Funnel-cake fries are always a good choice. You deserve them.
  • Obviously, take hand sanitizer, just to be safe.