Hull’s Drive-In Theatre

See a movie at the nation's first non-profit, community-owned drive-in theatre.

Trade your living room ceiling for a starry sky at Hull’s Drive-In theatre near Lexington, Virginia.

The first non-profit, community-owned drive-in theatre in the U.S., Hull’s Drive-In Theatre is one of eight drive-in theatres currently operating in Virginia. It is one of the nation’s only two non-profit drive-in theatres (the other, Warner’s, is in nearby Franklin, West Virginia). At the industry’s peak in the late 1950s there were about 4,000 drive-in theatres across the U.S., but only 330 remain in operation.

Hull’s Drive-In Theatre first opened in 1950; for the 2020 season it opened on May 15, after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Typically, it opens mid- to late-March and operates through the last weekend in October.) This year, the place feels less retro and more relevant than ever. “People have been very receptive to the opportunity to get out, see a movie, and feel safe where they’re doing it,” says Lauren Summers, executive director.

New procedures aim to protect safety while continuing to provide a fun movie-going experience. Though Hull’s Drive-In Theatre can accommodate 320 cars, “one of the main things we’re doing is only selling to half capacity,” says Summers. “There can be plenty of social distancing and people can still sit on lawn chairs or blankets in front of their cars for as close to a traditional experience as possible.” At Hull’s, parking spaces are large enough to provide an opportunity to exit your vehicle while still maintaining appropriate distance from other moviegoers. “One of the nice things about our topography is that there’s a gentle slope, so each row is higher than the one in front of it,” says Summers. “The spaces are deep enough that there’s plenty of room for the whole family to be in front of the vehicle if they don’t want to sit inside of it.”

Typically, Hull’s Drive-In Theatre strives to show as many first-run movies as possible, but there are no new releases for the time being. “So we’re showing throwbacks!” says Summers. The 2020 season line-up includes Iron Man, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Secret Life of Pets, Friday the 13th, King Fu Panda, and The Karate Kid among other titles. As always, the goal is to offer a range of films that appeal to all audiences, with a mix of G-, PG-, PG-13, and some R-rated options. Some nights a single movie is screened, others offer a double feature.

For the 2020 season, bring a portable radio or tune your vehicle radio for 88.1 FM for movie sound. Though they’re turned off this season, audio typically plays through the theatre’s original speakers. “We keep them updated and got all new electrical wiring a couple years ago,” says Summers. “Many people will sit in their cars to listen—but depending on the weather, lots of folks bring mattresses, lawn chairs, blow-up mattresses, even couches in the back of their SUV or pick-up. It’s fun to see what people do at the drive-in.” Even dogs are welcome at Hull’s, as long as they’re kept on a leash and you clean up after your pet.

Contactless ticketing, online concession ordering, and hands-free soap and towel dispensers are among other new safety measures. “You order concessions online and get a text or email when it’s ready so you can go pick it up then go back to your car with no waiting in line,” says Summers.

Concessions are a key part of the drive-in experience: Enjoy a tasty treat while helping keep the theatre in business. Current menu items range from $1.50 to $7 each, with mouthwatering options like all-beef hot dogs topped with chili or cheese, funnel cake fries, cheeseburgers, barbecue sandwiches, soft pretzels, candy, snow cones, sodas, and—of course!—popcorn. Outside food is discouraged and alcohol is strictly prohibited. “Everything in an order is packaged together so nobody has to wait in line,” says Summers.

Come enjoy fresh air, yummy snacks, and big-screen entertainment at Hull’s Drive-In Theatre.

Getting There

Hull’s Drive-In Theatre is located at 2367 N. Lee Highway in Lexington, Virginia. It operates Thursdays through Sundays, rain or shine. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. in the summer and 6 p.m. in the spring and fall; movies start approximately 20 minutes after sunset. For the 2020 season, tickets are $10 per car on single feature nights and $20 per car on double feature nights. A single person in a car pays $10. All tickets must be purchased online; $1 fee per transaction. The theatre is also available for private rentals on weeknights. For more information call the movie line at 540-463-2621. Full coronavirus era safety measures are detailed here.

Members and sponsors help the non-profit remain afloat. “Our community and corporate sponsors help underwrite the business because for something that seems like it’s a very simple business it’s a pretty expensive undertaking,” says Summers. Memberships start at $10 while sponsorships start at $250.

Hull’s Drive-In Theatre is just one of the many great reasons to visit Lexington, Virginia.

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