The Warwick Drive-In. Photo courtesy of Beth Seeber Wilson

When New York State begins to re-open on May 15, one of the low-risk activities included in the reopening state-wide are drive-in theaters. Long thought to be a relic of the past, there are more than a handful of drive-ins still operating in New York State. In the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps it’s time for a trip down memory lane this summer!

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. You may also want to check out the drive-in theater in Astoria, Queens transformed from the parking lot of the Bel -Aire Diner!

1. Finger Lakes Drive-In

The Finger Lakes Drive-In in Auburn, New York claims it’s the oldest continually running drive-in, opened first on July 15, 1947. It will be open for business this weekend showing Trolls World Tour. The classic drive-in has speakers placed on poles throughout the parking area, but you can also tune in through your FM radio at 101.9 FM to get the sound for the films.

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