Picture this—it’s golden hour, the sun sets, stars emerge… and the film starts to roll. The classic American drive-in is at once nostalgic, romantic, and comfortable, capturing the joys of seeing a movie in theaters (as Nicole Kidman so eloquently described) in a more casual, intimate way.
During the pandemic, we saw a surge of drive-in theaters, as people sought a way to get out of the house for a safe, communal experience. Hence the “second boom” of Houston-area outdoor movies.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of a drive-in movie experience, then I urge you to grab a partner, pack a picnic, and drive on over to one of these Houston-area theaters creating movie magic in the great outdoors.
- Map of the Three Best Drive in Movie Theaters in Houston
- 1. Moonstruck Drive-In (East End)
- 2. Showboat Drive-In (Hockley)
- 3. Rooftop Cinema Club (Post Oak)
- Bonus: 4 Houston Movies in the Park
- Movie Nights in the Suburbs
Map of the Three Best Drive in Movie Theaters in Houston
1. Moonstruck Drive-In (East End)
East Down Houston, or EaDo as it’s lovingly referred to by its residents, is a vibrant neighborhood that’s full of history, art, and soul. With perfect positioning for stunning skyline views, it was only a matter of time before the neighborhood attracted venues for outdoor entertainment—like the Moonstruck Drive-In.
What started as a community-centered response to COVID-19 protocols back in 2021 has transformed into the only true drive-in theater within Houston’s city limits. In fact, it’s the only pandemic-era pop-up theater that remains in the H!
The year-round drive-in is open rain or shine, Thursday through Sunday, with hours that vary across the year (ya know—thanks to planetary rotations and whatnot). Moonstruck shows first run and classic films; you can visit their website for showtimes and the current film lineup.
The Setup: Moonstruck Drive-In consists of two 60-foot screens built into shipping container structures. They use the same projection equipment as AMC or Cinemark and while they do use outdoor speakers near the bathrooms and concessions, the only way to listen from your car is by FM transmission. There currently aren’t any apps that can pick up FM radio, so be sure to tune your car to their station or grab your portable radio!
The Menu: During your film, much on fresh popcorn and movie theater classics, and relax with a drink from their beer and wine list (unless you’re the DD). Moonlight often features local EaDo food truck vendors, but they don’t allow any other outside food.
The Rules: You can sit in your car or around your car, but don’t plan on lounging on top of it. Moonstruck allows you to leave your car on if you’re concerned about your battery (or more importantly—your A/C), just don’t forget to turn your headlights off! And for pet lovers, both dogs and cats alike are welcome to enjoy the show along with their owners.
The Cost: $30 per car, with up to 6 people per vehicle or the car’s legal limit (no clown car tricks, please).
- Address: 100 Bringhurst St, Houston, TX 77020
- Website: Moonstruck Drive-In
2. Showboat Drive-In (Hockley)
In their heyday, there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States, but as real estate became more valuable, the theaters sold one by one, leaving movie lovers without the casual convenience and nostalgia of a drive-in movie. In 2006, Showboat Drive-In decided to fill this hole left in the hearts of Houstonians and has been the go-to spot for the classic drive-in movie experience ever since.
Forty miles outside of Houston, this year-round outdoor theater shows weekend double features of movies currently playing at the box office (with some classics sprinkled in). Rain or shine, the gates open at 6:30, with the first feature film beginning around 8, depending on dusk. I’d recommend getting there early to get a good seat—er, parking spot.
The Setup: Showboat has two screens for two nightly double features, one for kids, and another for grown-up kids. The audio is broadcasted via FM radio (pro tip: forget the hassle of keeping your battery charged and bring a portable, battery-operated radio).
The Menu: Skip the line and buy concessions via the Fan Food app, which conveniently notifies you when your food is ready. The menu is limited to movie theater classics, but outside food is allowed… just be sure to leave the alcohol at home (this is a drive-in movie, after all).
The Rules: No idling—they can, and will, kick you out! If you’re worried about keeping your car battery charged, you can start your car briefly or use a portable radio (see pro tip above). While you’re welcome to enjoy the movie from inside your car, Showboat encourages viewers to get creative with seating outside the car. Anyone have a spare couch?
The Cost: Individually ticketed events are currently $8 for adults and $6 for kids, and carload event prices vary. If you’re reading this, go ahead and click the link to buy your tickets online… they’re discounted over tickets purchased at the gate.
- Address: 22422 Farm to Market 2920, Hockley, TX 77447
- Website: Showboat Drive-In
3. Rooftop Cinema Club (Post Oak)
A new era of theater under the stars has begun with Houston’s Rooftop Cinema Club. Formerly located at the historic Sawyer Yards, this outdoor cinema experience has relocated to Uptown in order to capture the true rooftop experience. While this isn’t exactly a drive-in, you can still capture the nostalgia of outdoor movies with the added bonus of personal audio, comfortable seating, and city views.
The Rooftop Cinema club offers a “social cinema” experience, centered on a curated selection of cult movies, classics, new releases, and special events—be sure to check the calendar because musical sing-alongs might be heaven or hell, depending on your personal preference. Get there early and hang out in the lounge area, grab a drink, play games, capture photo ops, and take in the city lights.
The Setup: Enjoy the movie with cinema-style seating and plenty of legroom. Depending on your ticket, you’ll lounge in Adirondak deckchairs for one or loveseats for two. And don’t worry about FM radio or your chatty neighbor; Rooftop Cinema Club gives out personal wireless headphones, so you can go all-in on your audio experience.
The Menu: In addition to the expected classic cinema concessions, Rooftop Cinema Club serves beer and wine… and is the only theater on the list where you can crack open the hard stuff (they also have canned cocktails on the menu). Outside food is allowed, but leave your outside drinks at home!
The Rules: Screenings starting at 4:30 pm or later are strictly 18+… other than that, normal movie theater rules apply (i.e. be a respectful human).
The Cost: Ticket prices range from $17.50–$25.25, depending on where you’re sitting and the day of the week. Broke college students deserve a night at the theater, too! They offer a 10% student discount with a valid student ID or class schedule.
- Address: 1700 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056
- Website: Rooftop Cinema Club
Bonus: 4 Houston Movies in the Park
Houstonians love being outside, so if you’re craving the outdoor movie experience without the car (or the price), a few local parks have stepped up with outdoor screenings of classic film favorites. Most of these venues allow pets, but be sure to click the link and check out the FAQs for specifics.
1. Screen on the Green (Downtown)
Bank of America partners with Discovery Green to bring monthly Screen on the Green features to Downtown Houston. Enjoy a family movie under the stars—and don’t forget the snacks and picnic blanket!
- Address: 1500 McKinney St, Houston, TX 77010
- Website: Discovery Green
2. Family Movie Night (Upper Kirby)
Pack up the minivan and head to award-winning Levy Park for a kid-friendly movie showing. Blankets and park chairs can be used, but they don’t allow any outside furniture (including lawn chairs). Get there early and let the kids run off some pre-show jitters at their awesome Children’s Park.
- Address: 3801 Eastside St, Houston, TX 77098
- Website: Levy Park
3. Movies at Miller (Museum District)
This iconic amphitheater produces weekly free entertainment experiences for Houstonians to enjoy, including Movies at Miller in partnership with Champion Energy. Seating is first come, first serve, and while a hillside picnic is a total vibe, I’d recommend the covered seating for optimal movie views.
- Address: 6000 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX 77030
- Website: Miller Outdoor Theater
4. Movies Under the Stars (Downtown)
Grab your picnic blanket and lawn chairs for a black-and-white classic film. Bring your own picnic dinner, or purchase from the park’s Niko Niko’s outpost, Bravery Chef Hall across the street, or another local restaurant. Psst… outside alcohol isn’t allowed, but Niko Niko’s has a selection of adult bevies to enjoy.
- Address: 301 Milam St, Houston, TX 77002
- Website: Market Square Park
Movie Nights in the Suburbs
And for those Houstonians who call the ‘burbs home, many cities produce their own movie night events! Check out the website of your local town hall, mall, park, or community center to find outdoor movie nights near you, or head to one of these local showings:
Sunset Cinema (The Woodlands)
- Address: 2505 Lake Woodlands Dr, The Woodlands, TX 77380
- Website: Northshore Park
Movies in the Park (Deer Park)
- Address: 610 E San Augustine St, Deer Park, TX 77536
- Website: Dow Park
Central Green Movie Night (Katy)
- Address: Commercial Center Blvd, Katy, TX 77494
- Website: Central Green Park
Movie Under the Moon (Sugar Land)
- Address: 15958 City Walk, Sugar Land, TX 77479
- Website: Sugar Land Town Square
Sunset Cinema (Pearland)
- Address: 3449 Pearland Pkwy, Pearland, TX 77581
- Website: Independence Park