Wisconsin Drive-In Theaters

By Jackie Loohauis-Bennett

What’s better than a walk in the moonlight? A movie under the stars, of course. Drive-in theaters have a special cache all their own. Although drive-ins across the country have fallen victim to urban sprawl and hard times, outdoor movies remain a much-beloved part of Wisconsin’s summer fun. Even in the age of multiplex and IMAX, ten drive-ins still operate here.

So, pick a warm summer night, grab a parking spot in one of the rows, settle in the front seat or wrap up in a blanket outdoors, crank up the sound system, and enjoy an outdoor movie experience Americans have loved for decades.

The Big Sky Drive-in
Wisconsin Dells

With twin full-sized screens, this is one of the liveliest drive-ins in the state. The theater offers first-run movies and the concession stand is known for its hamburgers. (Hwy 16, 608/254-8025, bigskydrivein.com)

Field of Scenes Drive-in
Freedom

With two screens, two snack bars, and mini-golf, this theater is one of the largest outdoor movie venues in the state. A volleyball court and a basketball court complete the entertainment offerings. (N3712 Hwy 55, 920/788-1935, fieldofscenes.biz)

The Gemini Drive-In
Eau Claire

This large-screen theater has a playground, FM broadcast and car speakers, and outdoor seating. It offers an overnight camping area for dawn-to-dusk movies during late summer. (6730 US Hwy 12 West, 715/874-7000, ecmovies.com/Gemini/)

Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre
Jefferson

A classic, 1950s-style drive-in with a single 90-foot screen. The lot holds 600 cars and features more than 200 restored classic car-speakers as part of the sound system. The drive-in plays first-run movies, mostly family-oriented. On-site attractions include a large playground, a bar and concession stand. The theater schedules many special events throughout the summer. (Hwys 18 and 89, 920/674-6700, highway18.com)

Keno Drive-in Theater
Pleasant Prairie

The drive-in provides stereo radio sound and a full service concession stand with picnic area. (9102 Sheridan Road, 262/694-8855, kenodrivein.net)

Moonlight Outdoor Theater
Shawano

The Moonlight screen was salvaged from another Wisconsin outdoor and placed near the indoor theater to create this drive-in. The Moonlight offers bleacher seating and plenty of space for pre-movie games and Frisbee throwing. A trademark “shack” serves everything from grilled food to pizza. (1494 East Green Bay Street, 715/524-3636, shawanocinema.com)

Sky-Vu Drive-in
Monroe

The Sky-Vu features FM stereo sound for movies shown on its sharp image high-reflective screen. The concession stand is full-service with pizza and burgers. (Hwy 69 South, 608/325-4545, goetzskyvu.com)

Skyway Drive-in Theater
Fish Creek

This family-owned theater with a 1950’s flair offers classic speakers in the first four rows, as well as sound through your car’s FM radio. For an extra dose of nostalgia, cartoon advertisements created decades ago are still shown before the movie, (yes, their concession stand still sells "Pic"!). (3475 Hwy 42, 920/854-9938, doorcountydrivein.com)

Stardust Drive-in Movie Theater
Chetek

A family-operated theater with space for 250 cars, the Stardust shows two new-release movies nightly for one ticket price. Patio benches near the screen are popular, as is a playground with a circus wagon kiddie ride. The Stardust holds themed events throughout the season. (995 22nd Street, 715/458-4587, stardustdriveinmovietheater.com)

The Starlite 14 Drive-In
Richland Center

Open since the 1950s, the Starlite has a capacity of about 500 cars with a choice of traditional speakers or car system sound. (Hwy 14, 608/647-3669, richlandmovies.com)

Note: Outdoor theater schedules vary widely, so make sure you check for season opening and closings at each theater. Rain may also affect whether your favorite drive-in is open on any specific day, so call ahead. Also ask about frequent visitor and other discounts some of these budget-friendly theaters offer.

Jackie Loohauis-Bennett is a senior journalist with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Content produced in cooperation with Wisconsin Trails, www.wisconsintrails.com.

This entry was posted in Drive-In Movie Theatres and tagged Features and Profiles