Seeing a movie under the stars has been a Metro Detroit tradition as far back as the 1940s. Outdoor movie theaters have changed a lot since then, incorporating digital films, huge screens and ample seating options to ensure an experience that everyone in the family can enjoy.
Outdoor movies are great because they allow you to spread out on a blanket, sit in your car or bring chairs to create your own kind of living-room experience. You typically don’t get to select the film, but most outdoor theaters show first-run movies and the outdoor parks bring back classics and kid favorites that children and parents can watch together.
An outdoor movie requires some planning ahead for the ultimate experience. You’ll want to bring a blanket or chairs if you are sitting outside. If you are going to be in a car, you’ll want to bring a pillow or towels to make sure what you eat and drink stay where they belong. On that note, food and beverages are a must for the movie experience to be complete. Some theaters have concession stands but other places, like local parks, encourage you to bring what you like.
If you’re checking out an outdoor theater for the first time, here are some things to remember. First, call ahead to see what movie is playing and its rating. Know that these movies start at dusk or after, so a summertime movie may start as late as 9:30 or after. If it is a double feature, you’re not obligated to stay for both movies – you can leave when the kids get tired and have fallen asleep in their seats. Moreover, some of these options are free while others charge per person so check ahead with the venue for its specific policy.
Here are some places to catch an outdoor movie this summer in Metro Detroit.
This venerable ozoner – the nickname for a traditional drive-in theater – has enjoyed a revival over the past year and they’re digitally set up so you’ll find something you’ll want to see for sure. The grounds at the U.S. 23 in Flint, the Hi-Way in Carsonville or the Capri in Coldwater have lots of open space for the kids to explore. The concession stands are excellent and there are public facilities for bathroom breaks as needed.
The Detroit Downtown Partnership has put together a great selection of outdoor films for families to enjoy through its weekly Movie Nights in the D. The screenings will take place from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Campus Martius Park. Everyone can watch award-winning films on the big screen during this free outdoor movie series. Bring your own chair or blanket to join us on the lawn for a relaxing summer evening set in the heart of the city. Popcorn is available for purchase. Showings include Minari on July 24, Nomadland on July 31, Cars 2 on Aug. 6 and Amazing Grace on Aug. 14.
Drive over to Clinton Township to check out the selection of movies available at the local Civic Center. This is definitely one where you can bring in the air mattresses or anything else you want to make sure you’re comfortable during the night’s showing. This summer’s features include Trolls World Tour on July 21 and Cars 3 on July 28.
This local favorite in the New Center area of Detroit has a great secluded vibe but is within walking distance of great food, drinks and amenities. You’ll enjoy the intimate setting and great culture of the park, where you can catch Detective Pikachu on July 13 as well as Raya and the Last Dragon on July 30.
If you want a smaller crowd and great traditional, family films, then cruise over to Dearborn where Wagner Park is showing films with the night sky as the backdrop. Bring blankets if the weather gets a little chilly and you’ll snuggle up for some great acting with the stars of movies such as Dolittle, airing Aug. 13.