Moonlite Theatre

location 17555 Lee Highway (US 11/19), Abingdon, Va.
telephone (276) 628-7881
year opened 1949
capacity 454 cars
booking policy

double features

sound FM stereo (speakers under repair)
admission $7; children $3
operating season  

This was the drive-in featured in USA Today's recent Life cover story. Quoting owner William Booker: "I'm going to be doing this for quite a long time. It's never crossed my mind to close this place down."

The Moonlite just became one of only three drive-ins in the United States to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Read about it in this article.

As of October, the Moonlite is under new ownership and is scheduled to reopen October 14 after a three-year absence.

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If you've been to the Moonlite and would like to share your opinions, click here.

Average rating: 4.09 (32 votes)
  "Our family has been going to Moonlite for around 40 years. It is over a 30-minute drive for us but we feel it is well worth it. Sure, all the new high dollar indoor theaters have their perks, and Moonlite has had better days, but we love it. It's relaxing and enjoyable to go to the drive-in with friends and family. My understanding is that they may possibly be closing in on some financial help to update to a digital system and hopefully also update/restore the rest. I hope so. As far as the complaining about the picture and sound, I have never had a complaint about either and the other night when we were there, with the use of FM radio at most drive-ins now and all the stereos in cars today, the sound is very good and the sound in action scenes was tremendous. You keep complaining, we'll keep going. I can't afford to provide major financial support or I definitely would, but I will continue to provide my support one weekend at a time. ROCK ON MOONLITE !!!!"  3 -- Faithful
  "Love it."  5 -- Tina
  "I attend the Moonlite because I love Drive-in movies and they are fading fast. It is true that the owner has let the place go and he is in his own world, but people are telling fibs when they say it is rat-infested, and bathrooms in bad shape or not they are usable, and how many other movie theaters can you get two movies for $7?"  4 -- Jerry
  "I will never spend my hard earned money in a place as awful as this. The local health department needs to be notified of the conditions of the bathrooms and the kitchen. When you have rats the size of house cats running around, it's past time to do something. It's been a eyesore in the area for years, with multiple complaints lodged. WHY has no action been taken, BECAUSE of who he is friends with of the local law enforcement. SHAME ON YOU ALL...."  1 -- disappointed
  "The old Moonlite of years gone past is gone, Booker you should be completely ashamed of what you've done to it.
  "The sound system is crap; no one wants to hear the hum of the system over the volume of the movie. Our family has left before, actually the last time we were ever there, because you could not hear the movie, all you could hear was a massive hum across the channel.
  "The bathrooms are disgusting, here's a thought, fix them and clean them. When people won't sit on the toilets and simply start backing up and relieving themselves in the general direction of the toilet you might have to think that something is wrong.
  "We've all had a great laugh, many times, of a drunk or drugged up Booker on the speaker. I can remember one night that he was so messed up that his announcement took like 15 minutes, continually rambling, and then he simply walked away from the mic and forgot what he was doing...only to come back a little while later and slur his way through some other announcement. If you've not already done so, seek help...
  "Another were about as close to Elvis as you are to the moon, Elvis was great but drop the we were great friends and he gave me this ring story you dreamed up...
  "The last time we went was the last time we will ever see the inside of this drive-in ...
  "Pathetic..."  1
-- Bryan
  "Was really good, this was our first date way back when. We loved it. Still go."  5 -- Cathy Hearl
  "Hope you can get the signs and lights to their original beauty! <3 We love this place!! <3"  5 -- Mary
  "We love the outdoor movies!!! The restrooms are in awful condition and could be cheaply fixed...Duct tape holding up the dispensers and toilet seats that don't fit the toilet as well as the cabinets hanging from the hinge and nothing to dry your hands on. The staff needs to pause the movie when speaking over the intercom for anouncements, we missed like 2-3 min. of movie ;-). The food is way overpriced... The grounds need to be improved and the people taking money at the front need to not take 5 min. per car. It's also not cool that it's CASH ONLY!!! You are losing a lot of customers by little things that need to be improved. This is my opinion as well as many others that we have spoken with ;-) I would love to buy this place one day and fix it up ;-)"  2 -- Am
  "I have been going to this drive-in since I was a child, me and my husband had our first date there and now we take our kids there. Every summer this is the only place we go to the movies, it's wonderful and I hope that we can continue this tradition for a long time."  5 -- Sara
  "The bathrooms are nasty, I would never use them again, I would pee on myself first. Duck tape held the seat on, it smelled bad and there were no locks on the stall doors and the doors didn't shut. When the movie was a little over half done they come on the radio and start talking and not for just a few seconds, so you miss part of the movie and that was not the first movie I have been to at Moonlite that this has happened. Their sign is broken and there is nothing about this theater that looks like any photos I have seen. The place is dirty, I would not recommend it to anyone and I will not return. We live in a day and time that you have to worry about catching something and I am very sure this place has not been inspected by anyone in many years. Those that have made good reviews are most likely friends or family of the owner; there is nothing good."  1 -- Heidi Martin
  "We went to the Moonlite over 30 years ago and have gone many times after. We enjoy going and bringing back memories of our younger days. Thanks for keeping our memories alive."  5 -- Bill and Cathy
  "Yes the Moonlite has its problems, but it's so worth going to. If you have never been to a drive-in theater then you should try. There is nothing like watching a movie under the stars. We go several times during the summer. It is so much fun."  5 -- having fun
  "Me and my family go to the Moonlite all the time when it is open. We love it. We always get over there in time to get a good parking place. We are going again as soon as it is warm enough outside. Keep up the great work and hope the Moonlite stays open for many, many more years so that my boys ages 10 and 6 can take their kids there too."  5 -- loretta
  "We took our 6-year-old to watch Spy Kids. Laid a blanket under the stars and watched a double feature. My son loved it as did we! Definitely plan to return! :)"  5 -- Christie & Sam
  "Food was good. The old speaker post still in the ground hampers parking a bit. Go to the restrooms before going, need repairs in a bad way. The movie picture is decent and the sound is lacking. It's great on a budget but honestly needs to update the sound system and repair the bathrooms. It's worth a look, some may hate it but overall it's only OK!"  3 -- Ted
  "You guys are the best, don't worry what anyone else has to say, if they do, let them go pay somewhere else. You can't beat the price and food. To the complainer, you must not have nothing else to do, sounds like you need to go to a movie on the inside, you will have plenty of room to park your butt. That is what the Moonlite is about, setting outside to watch it, and also if your in that 'big' of a hurry to watch the movie, sounds like you would be better off at home:) GOD BLESS YOU MOONLITE :~)"  5 -- to the "complainer"
  "Yea it is all true... Family tradition that makes me and my family look forward to summer. Yes, we are one of those families that take outdoor seats, boombox that uses batteries, bucket of KFC or a pizza (but always visit snack bar, cherry smashes and popcorn) and best of all the prices are great, 7 bucks for 2 movies. We go at least 20 times a year. YES he starts movies late when there are crowds or when its not dark enough, YES it is sometimes crowded but WE WOULDN'T WANT IT ANY OTHER WAY!!!! THANKS BOOKER we hope you never change and stay healthy and keep it open FOREVER."  5 -- CD Johnson
  "I took my daughter to see Cars 2 and there was NOwhere to park because inconsiderate people were putting their CHAIRS across where people are supposed to PARK. Actually SPREADING THEM out across the grass where CARS are supposed to park... THIS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. IF you are going to bring a chair it should be placed IN FRONT OF YOUR CAR!!!!!!!!"  3 -- susan a
  "At the Moonlite, movie never starts on time. During the Cars movie, Booker even held the start time an additional hour so all the late traffic could get in, then to top it off he let more in than he had parking spots for and continued to welcome them because as he said, with the audio coming over the car stereo, 'they don't need a parking spot.' However, my complaint is IF someone had an emergency no one could get out or emergency personnel could not get in!!!! The marquee does NOT look like the picture posted on this website and has not for many years, it is in bad need of repair yet Booker continues to ignore it. So sad because the Moonlite could be so much. I give places I eat or patronize in any way three times before I mark them off my list; I gave Moonlite the same consideration and all three times they failed miserably. Time him and see how long you have to sit there waiting for even the previews to start."  2 -- "won't go back"
  "I've been going to the Moonlite for years, and now I take my daughters there. It's a great place to go for some family entertainment and enjoy summer nights. Yes, the sign is damaged, but if people that have [been] coming over the years would chip in, then it could be restored and look great again. You can't beat hearing the Moonlite song just before the movie starts!"  5 -- Dave Vencill
  "Our family has enjoyed coming to the Moonlite for years. We enjoy the 'lost in the Fifties' kind of feeling that is experienced at this historical landmark. Listening to Elvis songs and hearing Mr. Booker's Unchained Melody story of working for Elvis before he plays the song is a highlight for my children. They love listening to the songs that mention 'The Moonlite' too. The kids always wear their pajamas and bring a ball to play with under the big screen before the movie begins. Then, it is Moonlite popcorn on a picnic blanket for the kids while the adults lounge in their beach chairs and everyone enjoys the movie! The Moonlite is a family tradition and an Experience we all treasure. Lots of great memories!"  5 -- Kriss
  "Great place! Fun atmosphere. One of my faves in the summer. Been going since I was a kid. Had my first date there with my now husband when I was 15 :) Hoping to take our 2 year old son this year for the first time:) Only suggestion is update the restrooms please :)"  4 -- Jessica
  "I love the Moonlite here now actually, the place is a little run down but I love the experience, the popcorn, and the cherry smash."  4 -- Dan
  "My husband and I went here for our first date 20 yrs was great!"  5 -- Michelle
  "We love this drive-in. We take our two little girls, 3 and 5 and spread a blanket on the ground and have a picnic while we watch the movie. We don't have to worry about them talking too loud and disturbing everyone. I have been going to this drive-in since I was a little girl. This is a wonderful family tradition that I hope to keep going for many years to come."  5 -- Carol Keen
  "I have been watching movies under the stars at Moonlite for years. I am now married with 2 kids that are adults now and I know when they have families of their own, they will all continue the tradition. There's nowhere else comparable to Moonlite. Bring the lawn chairs, or as we do, beach chairs, kick back, relax and enjoy the movie. Great people, great prices, family atmosphere, nothing else like it in the world."  5 -- Charlie
  "Go on your birthday and tell 'William', and he will get everybody to blow their car horns to wish you a Happy Birthday."  5 -- David Madison
  "Booker is so nice and sweet. I enjoy going there. I probably go to the Moonlite about twice a month and enjoy it a lot. I love his stories about Elvis. I also enjoy listening before the movies, he plays all Elvis songs. The people that sell food are nice too. Its all family friendly. Thanks for all your hard work."  5 -- tabitha
  "Run down but at least you can get the drive-in experience!"  3 -- Donna
  "I have been going to the Moonlite for as long as I can remember. I DO NOT go to regular theaters. Only the Moonlite! Now that I'm a mommy I take my kids! And when time comes I'll take their kids!"  5 -- MommyOf2Nurse
  "Me and my husband really look forward to this place opening every spring, it's a family friendly place with no one getting up in front of you or kicking your seat like in the cinema-malls. I've come to this drive-in for over 20 yrs. and I really hope to return for many more. God Bless You."  5 -- Lynn

Click here to see the 1991 USGS map depicting the drive-in and surrounding area.
here to see an April 1998 aerial photograph of the drive-in.

Photos from June 1998:

Below photos are by Stu Megaw, taken May 2000.