The Best Radio for Drive In Movie Theaters: The Top 10 Guide

Sometimes the best experience when using a radio for drive in movie theaters is achieved when you use an external radio or bluetooth speaker.

couple sitting in car at drive in movie theater listening to the radio movie audio

Since the first drive-in theater opened in 1933, this unique experience has become a popular pastime for many. Even though there are fewer drive-in movie theaters than there once were, their popularity is still high. The number of drive-in theaters continues to rise each year. 

That's good news for anyone who's a big fan of this wholesome and cost-effective form of entertainment. If you have a passion for the outdoors and enjoy watching movies on a big screen under a starry sky, then this article is for you.

cars in front of a bright white screen under a starry sky with their radios on at the drive in movie theater
Image Source: FreeImages

Nothing beats listening to the audio coming through the radio when you're watching a movie on a massive screen, outside, in the dark, and enjoying time with family and friends. participates in affiliate programs. Any links provided in the text below may be affiliate links from which we benefit financially. Please use our links, as they help us continue providing you with quality content—free of charge.

Especially if that space happens to be covered in speakers so it feels like every corner of your car is filled with sound (assuming your vehicle has some nice speakers).

But sometimes, you just do not want to use the speakers in your car - even if they do produce high-quality audio. Sometimes, the best experience when using a radio for driving in movie theaters is achieved when you use an external radio or Bluetooth speaker.

black speaker on brown wooden stand
Photo by Gonzalo Facello on

As a family, we've been to drive in movie theaters in Texas many times under the big, starry sky and it's absolutely an event to remember each and every time.

But we've also learned something new with each trip to the drive-in. I wrote another article about what to bring to drive in movie theaters to get the most out of each experience.

A good part of the experience is directly related to the type of portable speakers and radios you choose to bring with you to enjoy the experience.

That's why I've created this guide on the best radio for drive in movie theaters.

What's a Drive-In Movie Theater?

While most people probably understand what a drive-in movie theater is, just for sake of those who don't - I'll cover it quickly. If you already know what it is, feel free to scroll down to the next section.

Drive-in movie theaters are open-air theaters where you watch a movie from the comfort of your car. You can park your car with your windows up (or down), and you watch the movie on an outdoor screen.

A lot of drive in movie theaters also charge per vehicle, rather than per person. The per carload pricing model oftentimes works out to be much cheaper than buying a ticket to a traditional movie theater, especially if you have 2 or more people in the vehicle.

black car with open door
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Even better, most drive-in movie theaters offer a double feature for the price of admission. This means you usually get to see a second movie for free if you're ok with staying for 3+ hours straight.

Most drive in movie theaters also let you sit outside in the bed of your truck, on lawn chairs and blow up mattresses on the lawn, or other types of relaxing, portable outdoor furniture.

They're popular in many countries and usually come with a big outdoor screen, as well as an FM transmitter for radio audio.

Many drive-in movie theaters also offer entertainment for the whole family so that you can arrive early and enjoy the grounds before the movie begins.

Going on a date at drive-in movie theaters is always a good idea, too!

If you're lucky enough to live near one, you know what a unique experience the drive-in movie theater can offer.

stainless steel beer dispenser taps as seen at drive in movie theater bars and restaurants
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The newest drive-in movie theaters that have been built over the past decade often include things like an on-site overnight rental (e.g., tiny homes, cabins, etc.), on-site snack bar and/or restaurant (most don't allow outside food), alcohol bar, 3D movie capabilities and much more.

Back in the day, drive-in movie theaters usually had radio speakers that played the sound of the movie; these days, You can also watch a movie at a drive-in by tuning into a radio station that broadcasts the movie sound on your car radio, a portable radio on its own, or a combination of a portable radio and a bluetooth speaker.

black portable speaker for drive in movie theater audio
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Every drive in movie theater is going to have a slightly different environment, with different noise levels from road traffic, wind, etc., which is why it's important to get the right kind of radio for drive in movie theaters to have the best audio experience possible.

Having the right radio for drive in movie theater viewing is essential to the overall quality of your experience, regardless of which box office hit you've decided to go see.

What to Look for in a Radio for Drive In Movie Theaters

The first thing you need to look for when purchasing a radio for use at a drive-in movie theater is its durability. You'll most likely be taking it with you when you head out to the drive-in and you'll probably want to use it again. 

Part of this durability will come with the design and materials used, but another aspect of it will be in the radio's water and dust-proofing. Since the drive-in will be outdoors, and you'll probably end up using the radio for more than just the drive in movie theater; you may want to make sure the radio is sealed and can withstand the elements. This includes dust and rain.

car window panel with water droplets
Photo by Apoorv Ishan on

The sound quality is also important! Since nearly every drive in movie theater broadcasts the audio via an FM channel, you don't want to purchase a radio with bad reception or poor sound quality, especially being outdoors. 

You'll also want a radio that has a long battery life since some movies can be 2-3 hours long these days, and you'll probably take it to more than just one drive in movie. 

You'll probably want to use it for various activities, too, so a long battery life is important. Bonus points if it's rechargeable with built-in batteries; with a long life once fully charged.

Tips for Finding the Right Radio for Drive In Movie Theaters

With all that in mind, it can be difficult to know where to start when searching for the right radio. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

- Start with your budget: How much are you able to spend on a quality radio? There are many different types of radios available and they can vary greatly in price. Knowing how much you want to spend ahead of time can help narrow down your search.

pile of american twenty-dollar paper money on black surface
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- Know your needs: What do you want to use the radio for? Are just looking for a radio for drive in movie theaters, or are you also looking for something that you can also go hiking with, or is it going to strictly be for the drive-in experience? Knowing all of the different scenarios in which you may use your radio for can help narrow down your options even further.

- Read reviews: There are many different brands and models available. If you're not sure where to start, reading reviews can help you learn more about the different radios and find one that best suits your needs.

Why You Should Only Buy a Radio Designed for the Outdoors

Now that you know what to look for when purchasing a radio for use at a drive-in movie theater, it's important to only buy a radio designed for the outdoors. While many radios are designed for the indoors, only a few are really made to withstand being outside. 

Outdoor radios are specifically designed to withstand all kinds of weather, as well as to play audio loudly and crisply enough to be heard well in the uncontrolled and wide-open, outdoor environment. 

aluminum audio close up design of speaker.
Photo by Pixabay on

They often have water-resistant casings and can be used in nearly any type of weather. They are also built to withstand a lot of wear and tear so they can last a long time, including being tossed around a vehicle, carried in bags, etc.

If you buy an outdoor radio, you can be sure that it can stand up to any challenge, especially as a radio for drive in movie theater experiences.

And then, there are times when you don't care about the radio being able to withstand the elements of the outdoors. Sometimes, all you care about is the quality of the audio that the radio is capable of producing for the ultimate drive in movie theater experience. 

I've got you covered there, too.

The 10 Overall Best Radios for Drive-In Movie Theaters

Now that you know what to look for in a radio for drive-in movie theaters, it's time to look at some of the best radio models available. We've reviewed a selection of movie theater-ready radios designed for the outdoor environment (and a couple that simply focus on the quality of the overall audio experience). 

They all have different features, so there is something for everyone.

Let's look at the absolute best radio for drive-in movie theaters:

My Personal Favorite Drive-In FM Radio

My personal favorite FM/AM radio is a rugged, water-resistant, dust-resistant and shock-resistant radio that looks the part - and plays the part - too.

You can plug it in, or power it using 4 C-type batteries, which is perfect for taking it out to the drive-in movie theater.

It's got great speakers, is rugged enough to be tossed into the back of the vehicle with little care about it bouncing around, and sits off the ground due to its compact roll cage that keeps the radio body elevated above the surface at all times.

You really can't go wrong with it - assuming you're willing to pay a little more for quality.

Behold, the Sangean Radio:

sangean rugged outdoor radio for drive in movie theaters

My 2nd Favorite Drive-In Theater Radio

If you aren't quite interested in shelling out $60+ for a quality drive-in movie theater radio, that's understandable. My second favorite radio is available for $15 - $20 cheaper, though, not nearly as rugged and durable against the elements.

But, as long as you take care of it like you would any of your personal belongings - you should be just fine.

The things I like about this radio for the drive-in movie theater are:

  • Built-in rechargeable lithium batteries

  • 4-5 hours of continuous use on battery power

  • You can plug it in if the batteries run out

  • 5.0 Bluetooth connect capable

  • Great bass sound, even when outdoors, which is perfect for movies

  • Using the remote, you can punch in the precise FM radio station the drive-in theater is using to broadcast the audio for the movie on the big screen.

The TenMiya bluetooth speaker with FM Radio is perfect for a good time at an outdoor movie theater setting:

Portable Radio + Bluetooth Speaker

One of the best radio for drive in movie theaters is the combination of an FM tuner radio and a Bluetooth speaker. Why?

Because portable speakers often have better audio than standalone radios.

Sometimes you can also get a cheaper radio + Bluetooth speaker combination that has better audio quality than it costs to buy just a high-quality portable radio.

a close up shot of a portable bluetooth speakers to use with a radio for drive in movie theater audio.
Photo by jovan curayag on

Alternatively, a lot of speakers not only let you connect via Bluetooth, but you can also just connect it to a radio device with a headphone cord via the audio/headphone port.

I'll cover both options, starting with the best portable Bluetooth speakers.

Here are a few portable Bluetooth speakers that I recommend using as your portable radio for drive in movie theater audio:

  1. JBL Flip 6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Waterproof & Dustproof - $129

  2. JBL Clip 4 Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Clip & Go - $79

  3. Sony EXTRA Bass Portable Bluetooth Speaker: 16 Hour Battery Life - $49

  4. iLive Mini Bluetooth Tailgate Speaker: Built In Carry Handle + Audio Dispersion - $27

  5. Insignia™ Rugged Portable Bluetooth Speaker: Cheap, 5-Star Speaker - $19

Select any of the images below to access the direct links to the above-mentioned products.

Despite the wide difference in pricing from the most expensive option to the cheapest option, each of the speakers listed generally have exceptional audio qualities, especially outdoors.

Regardless of which of the above-mentioned Bluetooth speakers you go with, your drive in movie theater experience will be better off for it.

Portable Radio for Drive In Movie Theaters

Now that we have the radio + Bluetooth speaker option out of the way, let's talk about the idea of just a portable radio for drive in movie theaters.

The drive in movie theater radio options listed below are just old-school FM capable radios with great reception and audio so that you can enjoy the drive in movie theater experience with as little hassle as possible.

Some even offer HD Radio capabilities when listening to an FM frequency.

round white and gray lens on brown textile on AM an FM tuner radio.
Photo by Brett Sayles on

If the listing says that the device has a headphone jack, that means you can also opt to connect it to a Bluetooth speaker (or any speaker) that has the same 3.5mm audio port on it (most do), for an even better outdoor audio experience:

  1. Sony ICFP26 Portable AM/FM Radio: AA Batteries, Built-In Speakers, Audio Jack - $31

  2. Studebaker Portable Retro AM/FM Radio: Built-In Speakers, Cool Retro Look - $27

  3. FosPower 2000mAh Radio Power Bank with Solar Charging: Built-In Speakers, Backup Power - $30

  4. Xeneo X21 Portable Outdoor FM Radio w/ Bluetooth Speaker: Waterproof - $42

  5. Pocket Radio: 3.5mm Audio Jack, Built-In Speaker & More - $12

Select any of the images below to access the direct links to the above-mentioned products.

With the 10 options (speaker + radios) listed above, the cheapest combination for the best audio experience would probably be:

Insignia™ Rugged Portable Bluetooth Speaker w/ auxiliary input and the Pocket Radio: 3.5mm Audio Jack, with Built-In Speaker.

For a total of about $31 you could have a pretty nice little speaker and radio for drive in movie theaters. Just get it all connected and test it out before heading out to the drive in theater.

If you don't have a standard 3.5mm auxiliary cord, you can typically order something like the Onn Brand auxiliary cord online for same day pick up.


The best radios for drive-in movie theaters are those preferably designed for use in the outdoors. If you're looking for a waterproof radio, you'll want to keep an eye out for IPX5 and IPX7 waterproof ratings in the description. That means it can likely withstand water and be protected from water damage. 

You'll also want a long battery life and good sound quality, or at least the ability to connect it to an external audio device (via Bluetooth, or 3.5mm audio jacks).

red audio jack on red background to use with portable radio for drive in movie theaters.
Photo by Önder Örtel on

Any additional features such as the ability to use the device as backup charger for your smartphone and other rechargeable devices, or as a flashlight, emergency radio, etc., are just an add on bonus!

Hopefully, the information on the best radio for drive-in movie theaters that I provided above was helpful in making the best decision for your next experience with movies under the stars! Now it's time to pick a movie to go see!