Photo courtesy of iStock / smodj
Outdoor, open-air cinema is an all-American delight. Despite changes in technology from 35 mm film to digital, and with changing sound, too, vintage drive-ins in the Northeastern United States have kept up, and as brand new ones prove, drive-ins are as popular a viewing option as ever.
Here are 10 of the best drive-ins in the Northeast.
Photo courtesy of Finger Lakes Drive-In
Finger Lakes Drive-In | Auburn, New York
Located in Upstate New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes Region, the Finger Lakes Drive-In opened on July 15, 1947, and it counts as New York State’s oldest drive-in theater. It’s also among the nation’s oldest continuously running drive-in theaters still in operation, too.
It's loaded with vintage charm, including, if you choose, those classic drive-in speakers that attach to the car. Otherwise, tune in your car radio and enjoy high-tech sound and vision.
Photo courtesy of Mendon Twin Drive-in Theater
Mendon Twin Drive-In | Mendon, Massachusetts
Situated on almost sixteen acres of tree-lined land in Central Massachusetts, this original single screen drive-in, which opened June 14, 1954, now has two nightly screenings of first-run and classic movies, as well as live concert streams, on two separated screens.
The cafe serves up hot and cold snacks, including freshly made popcorn. Pop’s Beer Garden includes local craft brews, wines by the glass and picnic table seating with a view of screen one.
Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls USA
Transit Drive-In | Lockport, New York
Founders Irving and Mary Cohen opened their first movie theater in 1927 and, in 1952, followed up with this drive-in, 25 miles east of Niagara Falls. Amazingly, the Cohen family still operate the drive-in and have steered its adaptation to 21st century technology, without losing its vintage appeal.
First-run and classic movies are shown nightly on five screens. Along with snacks, there’s a miniature golf course.
Photo courtesy of Connecticut Office of Tourism
Mansfield Drive-In Theatre | Mansfield, Connecticut
Set on 40 acres of land in eastern Connecticut, this drive-in theater has been operating since 1954, when it was a single screen attraction. Now, three screens offer digital projection of first-run and classic double features.
There’s a full-service snack bar with hot dogs, burgers, fries, popcorn and ice cream. The site also pulls double duty as one of New England’s largest flea markets, every Sunday.
Photo courtesy of James Toomey
Rustic Drive-In | North Smithfield, Rhode Island
Opened in Rhode Island’s rural Blackstone Valley in 1951, the Rustic is the small state’s last remaining drive-in theatre. But there’s nothing small about this three-screen, thoroughly modern venue, which shows two movies – both classics and first-run, or live streamed concerts and events, nightly.
Amongst the usual snack food, enjoy traditional Rhode Island clam cakes.
Photo courtesy of Access Aerial
Circle Drive-In Theatre | Scranton, Pennsylvania
The Circle Drive-In opened in Lackawanna County in 1949 and claims to be America’s only haunted drive-in theater. That is, during the Halloween season, the theater is transformed into a haunted house. Otherwise, the drive-in shows first-run features and retro classics on two screens at weekends, and also hosts live concerts and other special events.
On Sundays, the site doubles as Circle Flea Fair, Northeastern Pennsylvania’s largest flea and farmers market.
Photo courtesy of Four Brothers Drive-In
Four Brothers Drive-In | Amenia, New York
Established in 2013, Four Brothers claims to be the newest drive-in theater in America. Maybe, but it’s possibly the only drive-in resort ever. Not only does Four Brothers show first-run double features, seven nights a week, and have local musicians playing during the early evening, but it also offers glamping and camping, too!
If that weren’t enough, amongst the cafe options are super thick shakes and barista-made coffee.
Photo courtesy of Ben Nugent/Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce
Wellfleet Drive-In | Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Opened in 1957, this is Cape Cod’s only remaining drive-in movie theater. First-run double features are shown nightly in season, and the venue is also co-opted by the notable annual Provincetown International Film Festival.
The drive-in hosts Cape Cod’s biggest flea market during the day, and movie goers and shoppers can also get in a round on the vintage mini golf course, which was added in 1961.
Photo courtesy of Dutchess Tourism, Inc.
Overlook Drive-In Theater | Poughkeepsie, New York
Opened in 1955, the Overlook is the big brother to the smaller, older Hyde Park Drive-In Theater, which dates to 1950. Located about five miles east of downtown Poughkeepsie in the Hudson Valley, the Overlook boasts the biggest outdoor screen in the Tri-State Area.
It offers two new-run movies each night, along with snack fare: everything from hot dogs to pizza to ice cream.
Photo courtesy of West Springfield Drive-In
West Springfield Drive-In | West Springfield, Massachusetts
Among the newer drive-ins, the West Springfield Drive-In occupies part of the Eastern States Exposition in western Massachusetts. Known locally as the Big E fairgrounds, drive-ins are popping up at county fairgrounds around the Northeast, and this is the biggest.
The West Springfield Drive-In shows first-run double features and live streamed events, and the concessions stand honors those fairground roots with snacks such as fried dough and cotton candy among the selection.