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The Best Outdoor and Drive-In Cinemas to Check Out in Sydney

Ditch the air-conditioned cinema on balmy nights and catch a movie under the stars instead.
By Concrete Playground
October 05, 2020
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By Concrete Playground
October 05, 2020
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THE BEST OUTDOOR AND DRIVE-IN CINEMAS TO CHECK OUT IN SYDNEY

Ditch the air-conditioned cinema on balmy nights and catch a movie under the stars instead.

Long before movie fans had ever even heard of social distancing — before we all failed to notice the term when it was uttered in Contagion, too — drive-in cinemas had perfected the concept. So, it should come as zero surprise that these outdoor picture palaces are popping up with frequency in 2020. This spring and summer in Sydney, there are several of them, plus some actual outdoor cinemas, too. From director's chairs in an inner city laneway to a dog-friendly drive-in on the north shore, there are plenty of positions to catch the best new releases and cult favourites under the stars. Pack a snack basket, some Aerogard and get your butt on a picnic rug or in the back of a pick-up truck for an evening. It's a perfect date idea or a great way to spend an evening with mates.

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    Since late in 2019, when Disney launched its own streaming platform, fans of its animated classics, beloved hits and many, many super-popular franchises have been able to binge their way through the Mouse House’s back catalogue from the comfort of their couch. For a few weeks in October and November, however, movie buffs are being asked to leave their houses to check out a selection of the company’s famed titles — all thanks to the new pop-up Disney+ Drive-In that’s coming to Sydney.

    The drive-in will arrive in Sydney — at the Northern Private Carpark of Bankwest Stadium, to be specific — on Thursday, October 22, screening films every night (except Tuesdays) until Sunday, November 15. As for what’ll be screening, the Disney+ Drive-In is working through the Mouse House’s hits, screening single features each night. On the bill: Star Wars flicks The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, plus throwback titles like 10 Things I Hate About You, Mrs Doubtfire, Mighty Ducks and Edward Scissorhands. If you really love your Disney movies, you can also expect live-action and animated versions of Aladdin and The Lion King, as well as sing-along Moana, The Little Mermaid and the first Frozen film.

    Popcorn, snacks and drinks will be available onsite — or you can bring your own. It’s strictly a no-alcohol affair, though. And it’s dog friendly. Ticket-wise, you’ll be paying per car; however, prices vary depending the number of people in your car.

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    The Sunset Drive-In Cinema

    The Sunset Drive-In Cinema, from the folks usually behind Sydney’s Sunset Cinema, is running from Thursday, October 1–Saturday, October 31 at the St Ives Showground. It’ll screen both new release and retro titles on the north shore. It’ll also serve up movie snacks, naturally, plus a range of other bites to eat from onsite food trucks. If you’d prefer to BYO food, however, that’s completely okay.

    As for what you’ll be watching, it’s a varied lineup. Get extra comfy in your car to check out Christopher Nolan’s 150-minute-long mind-bender Tenet, see if The New Mutants manages to combine horror with superheroes, or watch a particularly beardy Seth Rogen in An American Pickle. If you’re more in the mood for nostalgia, you can opt for a Mean Girls and Clueless double, do the Time Warp with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, revisit Pulp Fiction‘s various intertwined tales (and Quentin Tarantino‘s memorable dialogue) or have the time of your life with Dirty Dancing. And, on Halloween, you can also indulge in some old-school bumps and jumps with Scream and The Blair Witch Project.

    Tickets cost $50 per car, which is particularly good news if your wheels (or your mates’) has plenty of seats. That price covers up to eight people in one vehicle, if that’s how many folks your car can fit legally. Plus, pooches are allowed, but they must stay on a leash at all times.

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    Skyline Drive-In Blacktown

    Dress in your best 60s get-up and step back in time at the only permanent drive-in left in Sydney. With a Happy Days-esque diner offering classic snacks like hot chips, choc tops and burgers, you better not do anything more than hold hands with your sweetheart otherwise you’ll ruin the schmaltz of the experience. There are two opposing screens which show double features nightly.

    As well as all the latest hits, the drive-in cinema screens retro favourites and seasonal specials. So, expect lots of slasher flicks around October, The Grinch in December and The Notebook on February 14.

    Like most drive-in cinemas, you’ll pay by the car load here, which includes up to six people for $35 a pop. Some special events may set you back a little more.

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    Ritz Laneway Cinema 2020–21

    Before 2020 rolled around, Sydneysiders were already quite fond of watching a movie outdoors, with the city playing host to many an openair cinema each and every year. But if ever there was a time to take advantage of the whole concept — the fresh air and the outside location, particularly — it’s this pandemic-stricken period.

    Enter the Ritz Laneway Cinema, which first kicked off back in 2019, and has now returned for its 2020–21 season. Unlike other openair movie-watching sites, this is an addition to the Randwick complex’s usual program. That means that the outdoor cinema is here for the long haul — whenever it’s warm enough to catch a film under the stars, really — and updates its lineup regularly alongside the Ritz’s usual indoor session times. Running on select nights — as subject to the weather, obviously, and kicking off at sundown each evening — this excuse to watch both retro and new movies by moonlight has had a bit of a makeover since last year. Movie buffs will spot a new mural on the laneway’s floor and walls, a new pasted poster wall and some super-sparkling fairy lights. For snacks and drinks, the dedicated laneway bar has returned from last time, too.

    As for what you’ll be watching, it’s an eclectic range . At the time of writing, that includes double the Seth Rogen in An American Pickle, Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense (aka one of the greatest concert films ever made) and Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery going to extreme lengths to go viral in Spree.

    Image: Kimberley Low

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    The Argyle's Openair Cinema

    The Argyle is done with being cooped up indoors just as much as you are. To welcome in the warm weather days, The Rocks’ stalwart is launching another openair cinema season.

    Hosted in its cobblestone courtyard, the movie screenings will start on Wednesday, September 9 and run weekly until the end of October. As with all of the best outdoor cinemas, expect cult classics on the docket — this banger of a list includes (in order of screening in September) Pulp Fiction, Superbad, Austin Powers and The Hangover. On the October lineup, you’ll find the likes of American Pie, Step Brothers and a yet-to-be-announced spooky flick on Wednesday, October 28 (just before Halloween).

    While you lounge in the courtyard’s comfy deck chairs, the kitchen will serve up movie snacks like all-you-can-eat woodfired pizzas ($30 per person) and — instead of your typical popcorn accompaniment — the bar will sling salted caramel popcorn espresso martinis for $15. While the films will start at 7pm, you can head in early for $5 happy hour from 5pm. Book your table in for free here to secure a spot.

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Top image: Disney+ Drive-in.

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