It is a mild Sunday evening in Hockley, Texas, and hundreds of cars are parked in front of a large outdoor movie screen with their radios tuned in and turned up. As the sun sets, a movie is projected onto the screen with the sound coming through car speakers. While this is reminiscent of a typical 1950s outing, it is happening today at The Showboat Drive-In Theater.
“The drive-in is a flashback for the older generation, and the teenagers come because they think it is something new,” said Chris Rumfolo, who owns The Showboat with her husband Johnny.
The Rumfolos developed the idea of building a drive-in theater because, coincidentally, their separate families were both connected to different Showboat Drive-Ins in Texas. Johnny’s grandfather owned a drive-in restaurant named The Showboat Drive-In in central Houston during the 1950s, and Chris’ parents worked at The Showboat Drive-In movie theater in Baytown when they were teenagers.
“It was a nostalgic thing to do,” Chris said of building the current Showboat. “It took almost two years to build, and we did it all ourselves. It was a labor of love.”
Make the most out of a Showboat Drive-In movie
- If you want to sit outside of your car, bring folding chairs, a blanket and a radio to tune into the movie’s sound.
- If you listen to the movies through your car radio, do not worry about your car battery dying. The Showboat is equipped with plenty of jumper cables.
- Young children should arrive in pajamas. The double feature can run as late as 1 a.m.
- Outside food is not allowed, but popcorn, burgers and drinks are available at the concession stand.
- Visit the theater’s website for special events such as classic movie nights and outdoor concerts.
The Showboat Drive-In Theater
22422 FM 2920, Hockley
The Showboat opened 2006 with one screen, but the Rumfolos soon built a second screen in 2007 to accommodate more customers. Now, both screens can park around 400 cars each. There is also a concession stand that sells classic soda-shop food such as cheeseburgers and fries.
“We chose Hockley because when you have a drive-in you need to be away from all the city life. Hockley is perfect because it is between so many towns, and we are far enough out that it is away from the town, but it is still accessible,” Chris said.
Patrons are encouraged to arrive when the gates open at 7 p.m. for the best parking spots, but movies do not start until dusk. Because movies sell out early on summer weekend nights, many arrive before the gates open.
“It is cheap family fun and you can bring your kids,” said Chris’ daughter Dinah, who works at the theater alongside her parents, brother and extended family.
All shows are double features, and adult tickets cost $5, children’s tickets cost $4 and babies under 2 years old are free. A playground is available for children and is located next to the movie screens. The movies shown are usually family-friendly new releases and change every two weeks.
“The Showboat reminds me of when I was young,” said Josh Simpson, a customer who frequents the drive-in with his family. “And you can’t beat the price.”
The Showboat is open every day from the end of May through the end of August. During the rest of the year, it is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.