A few weeks ago, myself and a group of friends expressed our wish to again sit in a movie theater while enjoying buttery popcorn as a film illuminates the dark space.

With theaters being closed, we turned our weekend plans elsewhere and decided to venture to a drive-in theater, specifically Getty Drive-In located in Muskegon.

This was my first time at a drive-in theater, amazingly, and I was happy to finally say that I cozied up in a lawn chair while snacking on Mike and Ikes and enjoyed a classic film outdoors.

Prior to the evening, it was evident that this would be a different movie outing compared to what I am used to; a drive-in typically takes a little more planning but also a bit more willingness to let go of any small bump, like a couple of raindrops or a gust of wind tipping over the bucket of popcorn.

Nonetheless, we packed our car with the essentials: lawn chairs, blankets, water bottles, two umbrellas — just in case — and a Bluetooth speaker so we could connect to the theater’s radio frequency.

Once we reached the entrance, we pulled out our phones to reveal our tickets granting us access to one of the four double features showing that night — The Goonies and Space Jam.

Credit: The Pike/Kate O’Neil

No movie is set without popcorn; the concessions at Getty Drive-In sell a number of movie theater staples, including candy, nuts, hot dogs and more. We got ourselves two buckets of popcorn to pass between the four of us, just in time to sit down and enjoy the company of the classic young misfits in The Goonies.

Towards the end of the film, fireworks started to burst into the sky some miles away — just far enough that they did not distract from the film but near enough that you could see their faint colors. It was suddenly picturesque, with the enormous screen revealing One-Eyed Willy’s pirate ship, the cool breeze wafting off Lake Michigan some 10 miles west, and the slightly overcast gray sky with the blue fireworks igniting against it.

This was all heightened by the groups of people gathered in their own spaces, sprawled out on a picnic blanket or huddled up in the bed of their truck. Suddenly, the activity of going to see a movie became much more communal than I had previously felt. Hundreds of people were all laughing at the same scene, all feeling for the same character, all celebrating the same plot. It was both cozy and exciting, both intimate and collective.

There are multiple drive-in theaters located along The Pike, like Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Benzie County and Sunset Drive-In in Van Buren County. After a day spent on Lake Michigan or hiking through the woods, an evening at a drive-in will set you up for a relaxing end to a day well-spent.

*This article was updated on April 15, 2021.