The best drive-in cinemas in and around Melbourne
29.01.2021

The best drive-in cinemas in and around Melbourne

Words by Arielle Richards

Did you know Victoria was the birthplace of Australia’s very first drive-in cinema?

Ah, the tail end of summer. It’s the time for romanticising all those warm nights past and desperately clinging on to the very few you have left.

With lockdown a distant memory, you may be feeling that the seemingly endless stream of summertime activities you’d been fantasising about all year suspiciously close to running dry. Let’s see: you’ve damn near sprained your wrist whilst bowling, had a karaoke revival, blissed out on your fair share of Victoria’s beaches, rivers and parks, even gone for a hike, simply can’t afford another bougie dinner, seen everything good at the cinema…

Wait. You haven’t forgotten about drive-ins, have you?

The hallmark of 1950s suburban kitsch, oozing nostalgia from a time most of us have only ever experienced first-hand at – funnily enough – the cinema, the drive-ins are still here. And they aren’t going anywhere.

Out of 17 drive-ins across Australia, Victoria is home to four, three of which are less than a 50-minute drive from the CBD.

In fact, Victoria was the birthplace of Australia’s very first drive-in cinema, way back in the olden days. The Skyline cinema in Burwood opened its metaphorical doors in 1954.

The drive-ins were a hit Down Under, as they had been everywhere else, mostly due to the post-war car manufacturing and nuclear family boom. At the trend’s peak, there were no less than 330 drive-in cinemas across Australia.

While the drive-ins bubble has well and truly burst, the sites that remain are iconic artefacts, and they ought to be cherished and enjoyed.

Not only will the experience satisfy a very distinct and special longing for warm times past, but they’re incredibly affordable, with an entire car-load of people costing about $30 at most of Melbourne’s spots.

Without further ado, here they are!

Village Cinemas Coburg Drive-In

Nestled amongst Coburg’s further reaches, the Coburg Drive-In is potentially Melbourne’s best-known spot to soak up the 1950s nostalgia. Once the largest, now the second-largest, drive-in cinema in Australia, the spacious lot offers three 33-metre high screens and can comfortably seat 900 cars. They’re open seven nights a week with free entry for kids, showing new releases and old classics. Foodwise, if you’re not in the mood to BYO,  there’s a 1950s style diner – a maraschino cherry on the vintage cake. You can opt to dine in the old school way, or take advantage of the 21st century’s small conveniences and text in your order for delivery right to your car door.

Find Village Cinemas Coburg Drive-In at 155 Newlands Rd, Coburg.

Lunar Drive-In

For residents of the south east, Dandenong’s Lunar Drive-In has you covered. Originally constructed in 1956, Lunar takes the title of Australia’s longest running drive-in cinema. If the historical flex isn’t enough to impress you, it’s also Australia’s largest. As per standard drive-in fare, the choice of four huge screens will have you covered wherever you park. Taking the title for most affordable of Melbourne’s drive-ins, a carload will cost you $25 admission Monday to Wednesday and $30 every other night – that’s right, they’re open seven nights a week, screening the finest selection of the hottest new releases.

Find Lunar Drive-In at 115 South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong.

Dromana 3

A tourism and lifestyle hub as picturesque as the Mornington Peninsula simply has to have its own drive-in. Enter Dromana 3, with its giant screens situated perfectly for stunning sunsets along the coast to backdrop the latest blockbusters. Dromana 3 has all the fixings and then some, with a specially crafted ’50s era diner designed to take you back in time. If you prefer to enjoy your films al fresco, you can hire a deck chair for just $3. Picture it, you’re sitting outside on a hot summer evening, a gentle breeze stirs away the heat as the last tendrils of a pink sunset reach into the sky behind your new favourite film. Perfection.

Find Dromana 3 at 133 Nepean Highway, Dromana.

Showbiz Drive In Ballarat

Fresh onto the scene is Victoria’s first regional drive-in cinema. Showbiz opened less than a month ago, blessing the residents of Ballarat with a drive-in experience to enjoy across the summer months. It has all the trimmings you’ll come to expect: food delivered to your car door, multiple gigantic screens and an entry price of $35 per carload, which drops down to $25 for couples and those with the foresight to arrange a membership.

Find Showbiz Drive-In Ballarat at Howitt Street Gate, Wendouree.

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