Stormy weather could not keep the Unadilla Drive-In from reopening this year. As our Elyse Mickalonis tells us, the theater lost its 60-year-old screen in March, but employees said community support motivated them to build a new sturdy steel screen. Now they plan on staying open for as long as they can.
UNADILLA, N.Y. -- It is a place that reminds us of sock-hops, poodle skirts and a time when speakers sat on car windows.
"When you go to a movie theater you’re sitting in a seat, but when you go to a drive-in it’s the whole family having an adventure,” said Hank Nicols, Cooperstown resident.
This week marked the 79th anniversary of the first drive-in opening in America, but the Unadilla Drive-In was celebrating something else.
"We got so many phone calls and emails. We had people writing on napkins, saying, 'Please don't close.' People offered to work, donations, people were offering to do fundraising just to keep it going and it just felt like we've got to do something,” said Marcia Wilson, manager of Unadilla Drive-In.
In March the 40-foot-tall by 80-foot-wide screen was destroyed by high winds and stormy weather.
“Three quarters of it was completely on the ground, it was kind of sad,” said Eric Wilson, co-owner of Unadilla Drive-In.
Replacing the 60-year-old screen took lots of planning, but two weeks to actually build. The theater revamped the snack bar last year. According to employees, the new screen could not have come at a better time.
“It’s helped. The picture is much brighter now,” said Wilson.
As film becomes a thing of the past, both indoor and outdoor theaters across the country are switching to digital projectors.
"A lot of drive-in theater owners are going to be forced to make the decision to go digital or show older movies, but we plan on moving forward,” said Wilson.
With almost 400 drive-ins left across the country and 27 remaining in New York State,
Wilson said he’s glad that they can still bring affordable family fun to this community.
"The nostalgia. Outdoors. They can come out look up at the sky and see the stars. It’s a lot of families. It’s good affordable entertainment,” said Wilson.
The Unadilla Drive-In is currently open Friday through Sunday. Gates open at 7:00 PM. The season runs until September.