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At the height of their popularity, New Mexico boasted nearly 50 drive-in movie theaters in the 1950s. But New Mexico’s nostalgic big screens dwindled to just two known operating drive-in theaters today.
Since becoming an anomaly in the state, the surviving drive-in theaters were revived amid the pandemic to offer residents safe access to their favorite films. Find out all the details about these two hidden drive-in gems with the help of the car insurance super app, Jerry.
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Fort Union Drive-In Theater
Address: 3300 7th Street, Las Vegas, NM 87701
Schedule: Seasonal (April thru October), weekends only
Ticket Prices: $20 per carload
Number of Screens: 1
Withstanding the test of time, Fort Union Drive-In Theater opened its lot in 1958 and held its ground to become one of two remaining drive-ins in all of New Mexico.
Known for its family-friendliness, Fort Union rolls out double features on the weekends—usually starting with an animated film for the kiddos. Once the little ones get tuckered out, a film geared toward more mature audiences hits the screen.
The best part? They’ll show their films rain or shine.
After recently investing in their equipment to convert to digital projection, it looks like Fort Union will be showing newly released feature films for the long haul. With a capacity of up to 300 cars, viewers are in for a double feature that’s typically family-oriented and bed-time approved.
Pets are allowed—and there’s space to roam around outside before the movies get started.
How to hear the movie
Run the ignition and get the FM radio on to tune into the film from your cozy car.
Outside food is allowed, but if you want the full experience, Fort Union goers recommend the $5 Frito pies from the concession stand. They also offer pizza and popcorn that have both earned rave reviews from movie attendees.
You can call ahead to place your snack order if you want to avoid waiting in line.
The Badlands Drive-In Theater
Address:1600 Highway 314 SW, Los Lunas, NM 87031
Ticket Prices: $15 per carload
Number of Screens: 1
Just 30 minutes south of Albuquerque, The Badlands Drive-In is operated by The Villages of Los Lunas Recreation Division and is government-owned. The Badlands took over the space that used to be the city’s old BMX bike track.
Although it was designed to make movie-going safe and accessible when it was constructed in December of 2020, the county’s strict COVID-19 restrictions stalled its operation until February 2021.
You’ll need to purchase your tickets online in advance to catch one of the latest and greatest films at The Badlands.
If you’re planning to ride in on an ATV or UTV, you’ll have to turn your vehicle around. That’s right, The Badlands is one of the only known theaters to ban the use of ATVs on their property.
How to hear the movie
Join the 100 other carloads in the space by tuning into the FM radio.
The Badlands is a B.Y.O.S. (bring your own snacks) venue, but they offer a unique feature that viewers say turns up the heat on the whole experience: fire pits. Bring ingredients to make s’mores and enjoy the flick fireside.
How to find the best car insurance for you
The fact that your car can transform into a miniature movie theater in an instant is one of the reasons Americans love a good drive-in experience. But don’t let yourself stall the drive-in lot without ensuring that you’ve got the best car insurance coverage!
In half the time it takes to watch a preview, you can sign up and find great rates from the insurance comparison and broker app Jerry. You’ll get cross-comparisons, a cost analysis, and customized coverage options from headlining insurance providers like Nationwide, Allstate, Safeco, Progressive, and Travelers.
Time is money—and you can save yourself both in New Mexico (or wherever your car is registered) when you download the Jerry app.
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Do you leave your car running at a drive-in theater?
No. Not only is it a bad idea for the health of your car and wasteful for the environment, but it could also disrupt fellow movie-goers who choose to sit outside while the movie is rolling. You don’t want to interrupt the folks enjoying the fire pits at The Badlands, right?
What should I bring with me to a drive-in?
Keep in mind that you’ll be positioned in your car for an extended time, so comfort is key. It’s a good idea to bring items like pillows, blankets, comfortable clothing, and/or a change of clothes for the kids.
Bring your own snacks and beverages to save some time and money once you get there.
How can I get my car drive-in movie ready?
All cars can be created equal when it comes to drive-ins, especially when they’re prepared and ready for a night out in the rain or shine. The key to a worry-free cinematic experience is ensuring that your car’s battery is fully charged ahead of time.
Car batteries die so often at drive-ins that some have jumper cables on-site—so worst-case scenario, you might just make a friend while you get your car up to speed.