Back in the day, our local (small town) drive-in was shrouded in mystery. Figuring out what was showing was a “Wheel of Fortune”-esque experience, since rowdy teens always filched letters from the marquee. We had to decipher those that remained: “Bee ice”? Hmm. Could that be . . . ”Beetlejuice”? We took a flier on “ack to he Fu” — a good move, since that turned out to be “Back to the Future,” a true classic.
These days, when a Target run qualifies as an outing, we’ve never needed the drive-in more. “Thank you for our first night out since March!” someone wrote on the Facebook page of the Prides Corner Drive In in Westbrook, Maine. That says it all.
Of the 300 or so drive-in theaters remaining in the country, more than a dozen are located in our neck of the woods. Many are open now, or about to open, with social-distancing protocols in place: Operating at lower capacity (spacing cars farther apart), online ticketing, requiring masks when you’re out of your car, restricting the number of people at the snack bar, “no congregating” policies, and so on. Playgrounds, picnic areas, and mini-golf courses — all part of the scene at many drive-in theaters — are closed. But the basic experience — watching a movie in your car in the dark — retains its “Grease”-era appeal, but with better picture quality and improved sound systems. Expect to see films that have been out for a while — think “Knives Out” and “Trolls World Tour” — because of the lack of new releases in the age of coronavirus. Tip: For the most current information, visit the drive-in’s Facebook page. Here’s a sneak preview. Bring on the dancing hot dogs!
Leicester Triple Drive-In
“Every drive-in has its own personality. My dad built this place in 1967 and my mother and I continue to run it like the original, old-fashioned business it’s always been, providing wholesome entertainment for friends and family,” says Maria Joseph. Who’s to argue with that? Details were sketchy at press time, but the theater is expected to open in mid-June, likely on Friday and Saturday nights with a single screen to start. Look for the latest announcement on their website or Facebook page. Make it “dinner and a movie” — order their made-from-scratch (by Maria) clam cakes at the snack bar. Price TBD. 1675 Main St. (Route 9), Leicester; 508-892-4400; www.leicesterdrivein.net.
Mendon Twin Drive-In
Surrounded by 16 acres of woodland, this c. 1954 drive-in is owned by the Andelman brothers of Phantom Gourmet fame. They show double features on two screens every night of the week all summer; count on oldies-but-goodies such as “Jurassic Park” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Judi’s Snack Shack sells some unique for-the-drive-in items like mac and cheese bites and fried dough. Ticketing is online, and with limited capacity, they do sell out. $30 per car. 35 Milford St., Mendon; 508-473-4958; www.mendondrivein.com.
Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre
Cape Cod’s only drive-in — considered one of the tops in the United States — still has its original speaker boxes (but you can listen to movies via your car radio). The theater is set to open by mid-June, along with the snack counter and dairy bar; check its Facebook page for updates. (The drive-in’s famous flea market will likely reopen as well.) Advance ticketing will be required. Ages 12-61, $13; ages 4-11, $9. 51 Route 6, Wellfleet; 508-349-7176; www.wellfleetcinemas.com.
Closed for 30 years, this c. 1950 drive-in reopened in 2015. Bet it’s glad it did. The single-screen theater plays new releases and movie classics. Coming attraction: “Mulan.” Best snack bar option: chicken tenders with a root beer float. $22 per car (higher for oversize vehicles like RVs). 1674 Hammond St., Hermon; 207-922-3878. Get tickets online at www.yourneighborhoodtheatre.com.
Bridgton Twin Drive-In
Move fast — shows sell out quickly here. As the name implies, they’ve got two screens, each one showing a different film with state of the art digital projection. (Last weekend: “Trolls World Tour” and “The Invisible Man”, followed by “Jumanji: Next Level” and “Bad Boys for Life.”) Order tickets online via eventbrite; currently, the rate is $15 per car. 383 Portland Road, Bridgton; 207-647-8666; www.facebook.com.
Prides Corner Drive-In
Since 1953, this theater has been attracting local families with movies such as “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (Gene Wilder version), “1917,” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (probably the closest most of us will get to a vacay this year). At this writing, the theater is not sure if it’ll be doing single or double features this summer. Check its Facebook page for updates. This one’s a great deal: $15 per car and all occupants. 651 Bridgton Road (Route 302), Westbrook; 207-797-3154; www.facebook.com/PridesCornerDriveIn.
Fifteen or 20 bucks for a night out (not including popcorn)? Not bad. Opened in 1939, this single-screen theater plays movies like “Onward,” “The Invisible Man,” and “The Goonies,” but make your plans (and order your online tickets) quickly; they do sell out. Currently, $15 per car with three people or less: $20 per car for four people or more. 969 Portland Road, Saco, Maine; 207-286-3200; thesacodrivein.com.
Milford Drive-In Theater
Southern New Hampshire’s only drive-in theater (c. 1958) plays double features on its twin screens (this past weekend, it was “Jumanji: The Next Level,” followed by “The Voyage of Dr. Dolittle,” and “Bloodshot” paired with “Bad Boys for Life”). The concession stand offers the usual lineup of drive-in fare — popcorn, burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders — plus jalapeno poppers, frappes, and ice cream with toppings. Bonus points for slushies and Sno-Caps (gotta have the ‘Caps)! $30 per car; online ticketing. 531 Elm St., Milford, N.H.; 603-673-4090; www.milforddrivein.com.
Weirs Drive-In Theatre
“The Drive-In Theater is an American institution … and quite frankly most of us belong in an American institution,” report the folks at the Weirs Drive-In on their Facebook page. Read their snarky FAQs for a laugh (and look to see if there’s a printable coupon on the site.) This Weirs Beach attraction has four screens that play double features. $28 per car with up to four people; $6 for each additional person. 76 Endicott St. N., Weirs Beach, N.H.; 603-366-4723; www.weirsdrivein.com.
Rustic Tri-View Drive-In
No need to stuff anyone into the trunk; they charge by the carload. Rhode Island’s only drive-in theater plays double features on its three screens, the usual suspects such as “Onward” and “The Call of the Wild” and more adult-oriented (but still PG-13) films like “The Wretched” and “Knives Out.” Check out the snack bar for faves like clam cakes and Richie’s Slush (both are coming attractions in the food category). Tickets are sold online only to reduce contact. $27 per car. 1195 Eddie Dowling Highway, Route 146 S., North Smithfield, R.I.; 401-769-7601; www.yourneighborhoodtheatre.com.
Set to open for weekend shows in June, this family-run, c. 1954 drive-in (upgraded with digital projection) offers a good mix of double features: Last year’s lineup included the new version of “The Lion King” with “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” “Hobbs & Shaw” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and an odd pairing (that we happen to love) “Yesterday” and “Annabelle Comes Home,” the doll horror movie. A bus serves as the concession stand; try Tammy’s gluten-free chili if it’s available. Cash only. Adults, $10; ages 5-12, $5. 36 Bethel Drive, Bethel; 802-728-3740; www.betheldrivein.com.
If you missed one of last year’s big releases, like “Bombshell” or “Knives Out,” now’s your chance to catch up; the Sunset (c.1948) shows double features on four colossal screens. Although the mini-golf course and picnic area are closed, the Sunset’s snack bar is open. (You can order food online or by phone and select a time to pick up.) Online ticketing preferred. Adults, $12; under age 12, $7. 155 Porters Point Road, Colchester; 802-862-1800; www.sunsetdrivein.com.
Fairlee Motel & Drive-In Theater
Where else can you watch a drive-in movie from your motel bed? Not many places; the Fairlee is one of only three motel/drive-in combos in the United States. The local community helped pitch in to buy a digital projection system for this c. 1950 throwback in 2014, and it keeps on keeping on, showing films such as “Trolls World Tour” and other family fare. As for snacks, the must-order is a 5-ounce burger, made from Angus beef raised on the Fairlee’s own farm. Cash only. Adults, $10, ages 5-11, $6. 1809 US 5, Fairlee; 802-333-9192. www.fairleedrivein.com.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com