What you need to know before going to the drive-in cinema at Yas Marina Circuit

We try out Abu Dhabi’s newly launched drive-in cinema

Powered by automated translation

Cinemas in Abu Dhabi have been closed since March, so when news broke of a drive-in cinema coming to Yas Marina Circuit, the opening weekend's showings promptly sold out. Luckily, we got a spot on opening night, Thursday, July 9, for a screening of 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road.

Our experience at the drive-in

Even though parts of Yas Island are closed off for the UFC Fight Island event, there weren’t any problems getting to Yas Marina Circuit. Doors open at 7pm and we arrived at 7.50pm. We were asked for our ticket confirmation number and had our temperatures checked at the gate.

It’s worth noting that the location of the drive-in is a short distance away from the gate entrance (roughly three to five minutes) so it's best to get there early to make sure you make it for the start of the film at 8pm.

The actual drive-in is at the parking area near the Yas Central building. We were handed a pre-packed bag containing snacks, which are included in the ticket price: two bags of popcorn, two cans of Coke, two water bottles, two Snickers chocolate bars and one serving of nachos. The offering is fine but because it’s pre-arranged, unlike in a traditional cinema setting, you cannot customise your snack choices (eg choosing Coke Light instead of Coke).

The first film screened at the Yas Drive-in Cinema was 'Mad Max: Fury Road' on Thursday, July 9. Evelyn Lau / The National
The first film screened at the Yas Drive-in Cinema was 'Mad Max: Fury Road' on Thursday, July 9. Evelyn Lau / The National

We were led to our parking spot, which was about four rows from the screen, and is determined by the size of your vehicle.

We looked around to see if there was any mention of what radio frequency to tune into to be able to hear the film’s audio, but had to call over an attendant as we were unable to find any information (a bit of a recurring theme throughout the evening).

While I was initially worried about the sound quality, it worked perfectly and it was nice to be able to control how loud (or not) we wanted it. We also couldn’t hear anything from the other cars around us.

However, the screen size (or maybe our distance from it) was a bit distracting. I saw Mad Max at the cinema when it originally came out and, in comparison, watching it again on a smaller screen felt noticeably different, and took away slightly from the experience.

Half way through, we attempted to order some food (options include a Dh40 pizza, Dh40 beef burger and Dh20 hot dog). I followed the instructions on the menu in our original snack bag. It said you could WhatsApp your order, but had to provide details such as “food item number” and a few descriptions of the car you’re in.

In a bit of a hiccup, when our food arrived, I was given two beef burgers rather than one because of the confusing nature of writing “2 (beef burger)” as specified in the instructions.

Ultimately, if you enjoy the novelty of a drive-in cinema, of the open space and having some privacy while watching a film, this is worth a visit. However, I don’t believe it replicates the theatre experience that many of us miss.

Unfortunately, it’s also still too hot to turn off the AC or even the car (which we did try at one point). But once temperatures cool down, it could make for a nice relaxed evening away from home – even if it’s only for a couple of hours.

Things to know before visiting the drive-in cinema

1. The actual cinema location is a bit further on from the Yas Marina Circuit entrance gate but there will be signs to guide you.

2. Be sure to keep your headlights turned off once the car is parked, for the sake of anyone parked in front of you.

3. You can leave your car to use the restrooms, which are located at Yas Central, but make sure to take a face mask with you when you leave your vehicle.

4. Food orders must be paid with a credit card, so make sure you have one with you.

5. If you find condensation fogging up your front window because of your AC, crack open your window a little to balance out the temperatures.

6. There are three exits, so once the film is over, there aren’t any problems getting out.

The details: prices and movies

The Yas Drive-in Cinema is now open and will screen films on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with doors opening at 7pm.

Movie lovers can check out show times and make bookings via the Reel Cinemas website and app. The movies you can expect to see are popular but a little old: Joker, Shazam, A Star is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, Ready Player One and The Revenant.

After registering, guests will receive a QR code that will be scanned by event staff at the venue.

Ticket prices start at Dh160 per car, and up to five people are allowed in a car if family members, or three if not. The price includes a pre-packed bag of snacks.