Tibbs is Indy’s newest drive-in theater. In 1967, when the venue opened, the city had many places to see a movie outside. But one by one they fell either through lack of interest or rising property values, which saw the real estate they sat on used for housing estates and shopping malls. But not Tibbs. The 23-acre resort sits just off West Washington Street, surrounded by junkyards and brick-and-mortar neighborhoods. The developers therefore left him alone.
It is under new management. Former owner Ed Quilling recently retired, passing the operation to his longtime employee, Marcella Snyder. She’s revamping both the snack bar building and its menu (look for new vegetarian options soon) and opening up the venue for various non-cinematic activities, such as concerts. Visit tibbsdriveintheatre.com for movies, showtimes and news on other events.
If you plan to visit, timing is everything. Unsurprisingly, Friday and Saturday nights can be madhouses, with long lines, up to 2,000 guests, and stiff competition for the best parking spots. If you want a less hectic experience, Snyder recommends Sunday evenings, which are significantly less crowded. Also, the best time of year to visit a drive-in theater is not the height of summer, but rather spring and late fall. The weather is nicer, the mosquitoes are gone and the movie starts at a more reasonable time because the sun sets earlier. Show up in June and you could be waiting until 10 p.m. for the first movie.
People try to get in for free by smuggling themselves into the trunk of their car. Snyder says people at the front door look for telltale signs, like a car being driven by a lone man who, for some reason, has a purse sitting in the passenger seat. If this happens, staff members monitor the car to see if any uninvited guests come out of the trunk. Then they will collect the cost of that person’s ticket.
Things are much more laid back than at your typical multiplex. Want to bring your dog? Go for it. Just make sure they are leashed and supervised, and that you clean up after them. Plus, there’s a play area to keep your kids busy before the movie (although management does require them to settle down once the movies start). And speaking of movies, Tibbs includes four gigantic screens, with a separate movie usually running on each. So if the movie you came to see doesn’t do it for you, there’s nothing stopping you from going to another screen and watching it.
They are even cool to bring “outside” food. Snyder realizes that some people have special dietary needs, and a couple taking four kids to the movies might not be able to afford everyone dinner at the snack bar. So you don’t have to hide your cooler under a blanket. “We’re pretty understanding of people bringing food outside,” Snyder says. “Of course, we prefer that they buy at the concession stand, but we never turn anyone away.”
Thursday night is “open caption” night. “If you’re hard of hearing or just prefer to watch movies with subtitles, you can come in that night and we’ll turn on subtitles for all the movies,” Snyder says.
If you want a better parking spot, bring your car instead of your SUV or van. About half of Tibbs’ 1,400 parking spaces are reserved for trucks, vans and SUVs, and the other half for regular cars. Unsurprisingly, SUV/truck spots fill up much faster.
Expect an eclectic crowd. Tibbs regulars include everyone from folks in nearby neighborhoods to drive-in enthusiasts traveling from as far away as Bloomington. Snyder says a group of fans came from Kentucky to watch a special Jaws/jurassic park dual function.
Movie sound isn’t spectacular, but there’s a hack for that. The sound is broadcast to your car radio via a low power FM signal. Which works pretty well for, say, a romantic comedy, but can feel decidedly underpowered if you’re watching a Marvel movie. As a workaround, try downloading an app that lets you listen to FM radio on your phone. Plug in the movie, put on your headphones and you’re good to go.