Drive-in theaters evoke nostalgia, a step back to the 1950s. The first opened in New Jersey in 1933, when opening night drew people from at least 20 states to watch movies outdoors from their cars. Drive-ins reached their peak in popularity in the mid-1950s with more than 4,000 operating across the country.

Drive-Ins Prospered During the Pandemic

But by the late 1970s, exploding property values, television, and large indoor theaters all lured movie fans away from the drive-in experience. During the coronavirus pandemic, however, drive-ins saw a resurgence as pop-up outdoor theaters appeared to take the place of indoor ones that were closed, allowing moviegoers to stay outside. But the problems bedeviling drive-ins persisted.

Stacker examined County Business Patterns data from the Census Bureau to determine which states have the most drive-in movie theaters. Rankings were determined by the number of drive-ins per 1 million residents.

lev radin // Shutterstock
lev radin // Shutterstock

There are currently 177 drive-in theaters operating in 25 states. States with the highest number of drive-ins per capita are largely located in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. For the count, film festivals or other types of movie theaters were not included.

LOOK: States with the most drive-in movie theaters

Where can you have a movie night under the stars? Stacker examined Census Bureau data to find out which states have the most drive-in movie theaters.

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[WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter private or abandoned property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing.]

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