Catching movies outdoors the old way



Hudson Valley drive-ins make a comeback

movies, drive in, families, kids
Showtime Cinema in Newburgh now offers an outdoor movie option.

Up and down the Hudson Valley, families tired of nightly movies at home have been rediscovering the old joys of drive-in movies. They bring folding chairs, picnics, and sometimes even pets along with the masks needed to visit restrooms or snack bars, where they’re not curbside delivery only. Some of our favorites have included classic old venues in Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie, the HiWay in Coxsackie, Fair Oaks near Middletown in Orange County, and the retro hipster fun spot in Greene County’s Greenville, as well as Armenia’s popular new Four Brothers Drive In.

Hudson Valley Parent has recently updated their drive-in movie list, which now includes 7 outdoor theaters in the mid-Hudson Valley. 

Even the Woodstock Film Festival has gotten into the wing of things, moving some of its special events to Greenville and other locations.

Now, Story Screen in Beacon has announced that it is working with city officials to convert the University Settlement property on Wolcott Avenue into a drive-in theater for 40 to 50 cars. The plan is to show two movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, beginning this month while the facility is still under construction. Concessions will be delivered to cars.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to bring entertainment back to our community, who have done so much for us in our first year at Story Screen Beacon Theater,” organizers wrote on Facebook.

To date, Four Brothers – which owner John Stefanopoulous tried to keep open after being declared a non-essential business by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders in late March – has posted the most comprehensive protocols for use under Covid 19 precautions. Among them: online ticket purchases to ensure a limited capacity, the maintenance of six-foot distancing and wearing of masks when exited from one’s vehicle (which is not advised), online food orders and car-hop deliveries, masks and gloves on all drive-in employees, no use of lawn chairs or outdoor seating (except in the bed of one’s own pickup), and strict enforcement of all rules. It’s a protocol most such sites are now following.

It’s all a far cry from the drive-ins so many of us remember.

The first drive-ins opened in the early days of silent films. Sound problems plagued them until the idea of individual car speakers came about in 1941. According to records, a 1947 total of 155 drive-ins nationwide increased to 4151 by 1951, then even more by the early 1960s, when theater perks grew to include playgrounds, miniature golf, swimming pools, and even bars where allowed.

That was a golden age. Cars got smaller, home watching grew as VCRs came into existence, and drive-in real estate got swallowed by shopping centers and malls. The remaining drive-ins shifted to whatever could draw a crowd, including slasher films, oldies and porn.

More recently, drive-ins have become the ghostly sites of other big activities, from the car lots of Route 28 and lower Route 32, of 9W near Middlehope and various sites around Kingston, to farther-afield flea markets and weekend antique fairs.

Those that have survived have had to afford the new digital systems required by film distributors. A lack of new films being distributed is now facing the entire entertainment industry.

Meanwhile, over in Amenia at the newest drive-in in the region, before Beacon’s announcement, ownership has written, “We are a boutique cinema in pursuit of magic, designed for those who want grand entertainment, premium foods … and to be inspired!”

Added to its Covid 19 page is a message: “Normalcy coming soon.”

Show Time Cinema is the newest theater group to go drive-in. According to their Facebook posting tickets can be purchased upon entering the lot. Showtimes are posted on showtimecinemas.net. Concessions and Restrooms are available inside the building. Remember to bring a mask. Social distance guidelines must be followed at all times on the premises. Use the Rt. 300 entrance, as the Rt 52 entrance will be closed. Lot opens at 7pm. Adults: $9.50; Child: $7.00




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