COVID Saved the Drive-In Theater. Here Are Seven in North Carolina You Have to See.

A coronavirus-proof business, the drive-in theater, in Kings Mountain, NC.

Previews play before the movies begin at Hounds Drive-In in 2020 in Kings Mountain, NC. (Image for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin)

By Max Millington

June 28, 2021

From Eden to Kings Mountain to Tabor City, a guide to the North Carolina drive-in theaters enjoying a resurgence in these germaphobic times. 

North Carolina was once in the top ten in the United States for drive-in movie theaters, boasting over 200 by 1958. Since then, the number of outdoor theaters has evaporated to only seven statewide. 

But even in these (hopefully) latter stages of the pandemic, drive-ins are a great option for film buffs that wish to remain socially distant or just want a different movie-watching experience. 

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Here’s a list of seven drive-in movie theaters in North Carolina that you have to check out:

  1. The Drive-in at Carraway Village, Chapel Hill

The Drive-in at Carraway Village was opened in October of 2020 in Chapel Hill as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apartment management company Northwood Ravin partnered with the organizers of Film Fest 919 to construct the single-screen outdoor theater as a safe, social distance-friendly alternative to the indoor cinemas. The Drive-in at Carraway Village is open year-round with showings from Wednesday to Saturday.

Originally opened in 1948, Badin Road has been a mainstay since it reopened in the 1990s. (Image via Badin Road’s Facebook page)
  1. Badin Road Drive-in, Albemarle

Badin Road Drive-in originally opened in 1948, was closed throughout the 1980s and reopened in 1994. Located about 40 miles away from Charlotte, the two-screen theater is cash-only and open seasonally, Friday to Sunday from 6 p.m.-3 a.m. 

  1. Eden Drive-in Theater, Eden

Eden Drive-in has been operational since 1949. The single-screen theater can hold up to 200 cars and is open seasonally starting in March from Friday to Sunday, 6:30pm-3:00am. Eden also includes a snack bar where customers can get all their favorite movie snacks.

  1. Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater, Henderson

Originally called “The Moon-Glo Drive-in,” this outdoor theater was opened in 1949 and like Eden, has been operational ever since. These days it’s named the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater, a single-screen, 265-car drive-in. You can even bring your dog to this theater as long as they are leashed at all times. One more cool feature: “Classic” cars get in free!  The Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater is open year-round, Wednesday through Sunday from 7 p.m.-midnight. 

Added bonus at this Henderson drive-in. “Classic” cars get in free. (Image via Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater’s website)
  1. Hounds Drive-in, Kings Mountain

Located next to Hounds Campground, this drive-in was one of the newest in North Carolina and the United States until The Drive-in at Carraway Village was built. Hounds was built from the ground up in 2016 and in 2020 it became the only three-screen outdoor theater in the state. Hounds Drive-in is cash-only and open on the weekends, seasonally, starting in March.

A coronavirus-proof business, the drive-in theater, in Kings Mountain, NC.
Previews play before the movies begin at Hounds Drive-In in 2020. (Photo by Grant Baldwin for Cardinal & Pine.)
  1. Sunset Drive-in, Shelby

Open since 1955, Sunset Drive-in is a 300-car, single-screen outdoor theater. It’s only open on the weekends from April to October. Unlike most movie theaters, Sunset allows you to bring outside food but is strictly cash-only with no ATM onsite! 

  1. StateLine Movie Time Drive-in Theatre, Tabor City

As stated by the name, this eastern North Carolina drive-in sits right above the NC/SC border, about 30 minutes away from Myrtle Beach. The single-screen theater was built from the ground up by Sherry Barnes, a local woman who wanted to create a source of family-friendly entertainment. StateLine opened in May of 2019 and operates as a 300-car, pet-friendly venue, open daily from March-December. StateLine also permits outside-food for a $10 fee.


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