Photo courtesy of Beth Seeber Wilson
According to the United Drive-In Theatre Owner’s Association (U.D.I.T.O.A.), as of 2016 there were only 324 drive-in theaters in America. During the 1950s, the golden age of drive-in cinema, the U.D.I.T.O.A. estimates there were as many as 4,063 drive-ins across the country. The most dramatic drop occurred in the 1980s when a number of factors such as aging owners, the abundance of other entertainment media, and increasing land values caused many drive-ins to dismantle.
Since the late 1990s, the American penchant for nostalgia seems to have caused the number of drive-ins to level off. According to U.D.I.T.O.A. statistics, New York boasts the most drive-in theaters of any state, followed by Pennsylvania and Ohio. Back in 2013, we also had the opportunity to experience a semblance of the drive-in movie theater in New York City, thanks to an installation at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which was made of junked cars and salvaged materials. Now, here’s a look at 14 of New York State’s oldest and newest drive ins:
1. Four Brothers Drive-In (4957 NY-22, Amenia, NY 12501)
Image courtesy Four Brothers Drive-In
Despite the vintage charm and retro aesthetic of Four Brothers Drive-In, it is the newest drive-in theatre in the country. The design concept for the theatre, which opened in 2014, is based on “American imagination, ingenuity, and lifestyle,” with their rocket ship logo calling back to the dreams of Americans in the 1960s. The character of the theatre is enhanced by signs, furniture and art that are all made in America. An art-deco painting in the projection booth was the last public work created by local artist Peter Wing before his death.
Along with the carefully curated decor comes a carefully curated schedule of new releases, #ThrowbackThursday classics, and indie films presented on a 56 by 31 foot screen. Car hop service is available through the theatre’s app, by phone or at the concession shack which serves all locally sourced food and drinks. On special occasions there are pre-show activities such as face-painting, ice-cream making and pony rides before the show. Everyday there is a playground open for children, the “Lazy Lover Liz Lounge” with a fire-pit and pergola, and open space for pets to play and a giant liter box for them to do their business. Four Brothers is the first drive-in to feature EV charging stations for electric cars.
Four Brothers describes itself as a “boutique cinema in the pursuit of magic” and it is quickly becoming a destination rather than just a theatre. Four Brothers will soon offer a mini-golf course and overnight accommodations in vintage Airstream trailers. Don’t forget to mark your visit by taking a Polaroid and adding it to their guestbook!