Down at the Drive-In
By Tyler Boucher
Photographs by Matt Kalinowski
Maine has a surprising number of historic drive-in theaters—five steadfast theaters remain in operation today, despite some lean years since their inception.
Westbrook’s Prides Corner Drive-In holds 550 cars—the largest drive-in capacity in the state. The theater first opened in 1953, during the heyday of the classic American drive-in, and it has been in operation ever since. For owner Andrew Tevanian, brother of Bridgton’s John Tevanian, drive-ins are a family business: “They’ve been in my blood since day one. The character of the theater is nostalgic. It hasn’t changed since we built it in 1952. Drive-in theaters are the last of an American cultural experience.”
The enormous screen of the Bridgton Twin Drive-In abuts the west side of Route 302 between the western Maine towns of Naples and Bridgton. “For most people, it’s about being outdoors and with your family. It’s more relaxed, and it gives you more freedom than a normal cinema,” says owner John Tevanian. The Bridgton theater, which was built in 1957, is the only twin drive-in theater remaining in Maine.
Each year the owners of the Saco Drive-In lease out the theater for the summer. This year’s management consists of a group of three enterprising University of Southern Maine students. “The drive-in was built in 1939—it’s the second-oldest operating theater in America and the oldest in Maine,” says Patric Brophy, one of the three young business partners. “Except for the projectionist, the facility is completely run by USM students. We’re trying to apply what we’ve learned in school, fresh out of the box.”
Madawaska’s iconic Skylite Drive-In first opened in 1973, making it the newest of the drive-in theaters in Maine. Suzie Paradis, of Madawaska’s Community and Economic Development Office says, “Having grown up with a drive-in, it’d be a shame to see it go away. It’s one of the best places to go with the whole family.” The theater is the only drive-in in the United States located within walking distance of Canada.
On turning off Route 201, cars are diverted around both sides of the looming, black-shingled back of the screen and into the open, amphitheater-like viewing area. The simple, one-screen operation has a reputation for affordability—in terms of both admissions and concessions—and films are shown seven nights a week in the summer. During intermission, the theater holds a drawing for all ticket holders, and one lucky winner receives free admission to a future screening.