Sci-Fi Dine-In Opened 30 Years Ago Today!
Today marks a whopping 30 years of the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater!
One of Hollywood Studios’ most iconic dining experiences, the Sci-Fi Dine-In allows guests to eat under the stars from their very own 1950s convertible. Enjoy your lunch while watching old clips from classic science fiction films, cult favorite cartoons, and bizarre news feeds of the 50s and 60s. What could be more unique than that?!
Walt Disney World celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1991 with a new ad campaign, “Twenty NEW Reasons to Visit Walt Disney World”. Twenty new attractions, shows and events were introduced throughout the year. Number 9 on that list was the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, which opened on April 20, 1991.
A few years prior, Disney debuted the 50’s Prime Time Café. The Cafe took the idea of a “themed” restaurant to a newly immersive level. The crowd response was huge so Disney Imagineers designed their new “drive-in theater” dining experience with the same over-the-top theming, in hopes of the same success.
The attention to detail at the Sci-Fi is big. Authentic convertible vehicles with Formica countertops and whitewall tires were designed for seating. The were “parked” in a huge “parking lot” in front of a large projection screen. Authentic, working speakers were mounted on a pole beside each car and all the license plate registrations were dated to 1955.
Further setting the scene, a white picket fence surrounds the dining room, set under a fiberoptic starry night sky. At the back of the drive-in “lot” you’ll find a snack stand and picnic tables. An interactively-lit, 360 degree mural outside the fence show us the mountains and palm trees of southern California.
Servers may appear on roller skates to take your order or portray a kitschy character walking around the drive-in. Like a police officer looking for stowaways in your trunk!
Originally, menu items were given thematic names like “Tossed in Space”, “Beach Party Panic”, and “The Cheesecake that Ate New York”. Popcorn was, and is, served as the standard movie hors d’oeuvre.
The response was big. In just a few weeks the Sci-Fi Dine-In was serving the same number of meals per day that the 50s Prime Time Café was. Within a year, the Dine-In surpassed it, becoming the most popular restaurant in the park. The fandom was big enough that the Sci-Fi Dine-In was partially to blame for the 2003 cancellation of the character meal around the corner at Hollywood & Vine.
Thirty years later, not much as changed about the original restaurant. Some six-person cars (tables) were added. The all-American menu has been overhauled several times over the decades, settling somewhere a notch above standard diner fare. (You’ll find plenty of burgers and salads but also shrimp pasta and seafood dip.) Gone are the cheeky menu names, but long-lasting are the signature milkshakes and “cosmic concoctions”.
Just a few days ago DisneyParks debuted a TikTok video, shown below, that showcases the restaurant, as it currently stands.
@disneyparksSci-Fi Dine-In Theater definitely passes the vibe check📽🚘🍔 ##Disney ##DisneyParks ##TikTokCars ##DriveIn ##TikTokFood ##SciFi ##Diner ##Theater
Overall, the Sci-Fi Dine-In’s creative theming and immersive design puts it on every reviewers “must-try at least once” list. The 50s drive-in has more than proven its ability to stand the test of time and we’d like to tip our monster hats for a Happy 30 Years!
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