Here's a guide to drive-in movie theaters in Wisconsin, and a look at the history of outdoor theaters here – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Wisconsin was a little late to the drive-in movie theater party. But we’ve never completely left. 
In fact, half of the drive-ins that are still in operation in the state opened in the 21st century. 
Below is a guide to the 10 drive-in movie theaters still operating in Wisconsin. Most are open from around Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. 
But first, a little history of drive-in movie theaters in Wisconsin, spurred by a reader’s question to What the Wisconsin — the place where we take on questions large and small about our state, our communities and the people in them.  
That story starts in Brookfield. 
The state’s first drive-in theater, called simply the Drive-In, opened on the site of a former dog track on the south side of Blue Mound Road, west of Moorland Road in what was then the Town of Brookfield, on June 18, 1940. Its debut was more than seven years after the opening of the nation’s first drive-in, in Camden, New Jersey. 
Later renamed the Bluemound Drive-In, the Brookfield outdoor theater was the Milwaukee area’s only drive-in until 1948, when the 41 Twin Outdoor opened in Franklin. 
As it did in the rest of the country, the drive-in really took off in Wisconsin in the 1950s. By 1954, according to reports in the Journal Sentinel archives, the Milwaukee area had as many as 20 outdoor theaters. Across Wisconsin, by 1955, there were 54 drive-ins.
By the 1960s, some of them were busy enough to be open year-round — quite a feat, considering Wisconsin weather. (In their newspaper listings, drive-ins like the Bluemound or the 59 Outdoor in Waukesha promised “in-car heaters.”) 
But by the 1970s, the rise of the multiplex and expanding commercial development helped make drive-in properties more valuable as real estate sites than movie theater locations. 
The Bluemound Drive-In, the state’s first, closed in 1981 and was developed as office and commercial space a couple of years later. The 41 Twin, the Milwaukee area’s last traditional drive-in, closed after the 2001 season. 
By March 2020, the number of drive-in movie theaters nationwide had sunk from around 4,000 in 1958 to 321, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. 
A handful of drive-in theaters around Wisconsin hung on. And, in the past couple of decades, a few new ones, including the Chilton Twilight Drive-In Theater and the Highway 18 Outdoor Theatre in Jefferson, started up or revived older drive-in properties. 
During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic — with social distancing a key safety consideration — a few pop-up drive-ins turned up around the state.
Some of these pop-ups were set up in parking lots outside existing theaters, like at Marcus Theatres’ Majestic Cinema in Brookfield; others were in lots outside other attractions, like the Duck Pond Drive-In set up outside the home stadium for the the Madison Mallards, the collegiate summer baseball league team, and the Milky Way Drive-In, built in the parking lot outside the Milwaukee Milkmen’s home ballpark in Franklin. Most of them shut down after 2020; the Milky Way continues with a schedule that runs into October. 
Where: 7035 S. Ballpark Drive, Franklin (in Ballpark Commons) 
Opened: 2020 
What does it show?: Mostly second-run and older movies; double-features on Thursdays 
How many screens?: 1
When is it open?: When the Milwaukee Milkmen baseball team isn’t playing in adjacent Franklin Field (the drive-in is set up in the ballpark’s parking lot), with movies showing into October  
Info: milkywaydrivein.com  
Where: W6423 Highway 18, Jefferson (at Highways 18 and 89) 
Opened: 1953; reopened in 2000 
What does it show?: New releases  
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Wednesday-Sunday 
Info: highway18.com 
Where: 995 22nd St., Chetek (about two hours east of Minneapolis) 
Opened: 2008 
What does it show?: New releases
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Thursday-Sunday
Info: stardustdriveinmovie.com  
Where: 1255 E. Chestnut St. (Highway 57), Chilton  
Opened: 2011 
What does it show?: New releases
How many screens?: 1
When is it open?: Wednesday-Sunday 
Info: getreelcinemas.com/chilton-drive-in  
Where: N3712 Highway 55, Freedom 
Opened: 2003 
What does it show?: New releases 
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Thursday-Saturday 
Info: fieldofscenes.biz  
Where: 3475 Highway 42, Fish Creek 
Opened: 1950 
What does it show?: New releases
How many screens?: 1
When is it open?: Daily 
Info: doorcountydrivein.com  
Where: 1494 E. Green Bay St., Shawano 
Opened: 2000 
What does it show?: New releases 
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Open daily 
Info: shawanocinema.com/#outdoortheater 
Where: N9199 Winnebago Road, Wisconsin Dells 
Opened: 1950 
What does it show?: New releases 
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Daily 
Info: bigskydrivein.com 
Where: N1936 Highway 69, Monroe 
Opened: 1954 
What does it show?: New releases
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Thursday-Sunday 
Info: goetzskyvu.com/SKY-VU/SKY-VU_HOME.html 
Where: U.S. Highway 14 East, Richland Center  
Opened: 1952 
What does it show?: New releases 
How many screens?:
When is it open?: Friday-Saturday 
Info: richlandmovies.com  
Is there something about Milwaukee or Wisconsin that’s been puzzling you? We’ve got experts who know how to find answers to even the smallest (and sometimes the most interesting) questions. When we can, we’ll answer with stories. Submit your question below or at bit.ly/whatthewisconsin.
Contact Chris Foran at chris.foran@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cforan12. 

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