McHenry Outdoor Theater opens Friday for 2018 season

It’s one of the surest signs in McHenry County that summer is right round the corner.

Since 1945, opening day here has been eagerly anticipated, and we’re fortunate to have one of the few left in the United States.

On Friday, he McHenry Outdoor Theater, one of only 200 drive-in theaters left in the country, opens its gates for the 2018 summer season.

In the same location for the past 73 years, the drive-in has remained close to its roots and modernized at the same time.

“This is a special place. There are very few of these places left in the country,” said Scott Dehn, owner. "When I talk to customers, they are very protective [of the theater]."

Dehn said that, at the height of popularity for drive-in movie theaters, there were 5,400 of them in the United States. Now there are only about 200, he said.

One of the reasons the McHenry Outdoor Theater is still open is because county residents voted in a national program that helped it to win modern movie projector equipment.

“People appreciate the nostalgia,” Dehn said.

He’s also worked hard to keep things up to date, by offering first-run movies, a family-friendly atmosphere and freshly cooked food at a recently redeveloped restaurant that was redesigned to more quickly get food to people so they can get back to the movies.

“This season’s opener was a no brainer,” Dehn said when talking about choosing the season’s opening day movie – Avengers: Infinity War. “Marvel cornered the market on the opening of the summer season.”

Dehn said he is anticipating a sellout crowd of 900 cars, the maximum the theater’s lot can hold.

Other movies scheduled to run this year are Solo: A Star Wars Story, Incredibles 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and more.

Dehn said drive-in first-timers should get there early to get parking and bring a frisbee or something to play in the theater’s big grass fields.

Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and they have to be bought at the box office. There are no advance ticket sales through the phone or online. Prices are $12 for adults and $6 for kids who are 11 years old and under.

Customers have been asking Dehn to charge “carload pricing.”

“This year, on Tuesdays, we are doing carload pricing,” he said. “It’ll cost $12 to get in for as many people you can fit in your car.”

The theater is open Fridays and Saturdays until Memorial Day. After that, it is open seven days a week until it closes for the season around Halloween.

If you go, the McHenry Outdoor Theater is located at 1510 Chapel Hill Road in McHenry. Movie selections and times can be found at

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Scott Dehn's name.

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