Summer is the ideal time for drive-in movies. After recapping the history of the drive-in movie, Main Street shares news on a local spot in Amenia that offers films, food, and so much more. There are lots of other movie nights in the Hudson Valley region, so grab your calendar and start planning.
An icon of American culture, the automobile, was invented and perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s, but the history of the car is often associated with America because the US quickly dominated the automotive industry in the first half of the twentieth century.
Of course, the automobile’s history is also linked with innovator Henry Ford – the founder of Ford Motor Company. Even as a kid, Ford had a keen interest in all things mechanical.
Ford teamed up with a group of 12 others and collectively, they invested $28,000 in Ford Motor Company. The first car built was sold on July 15, 1903. Beyond taking people from point A to point B, the auto has sparked other inventions that have played important roles in American history.
The automobile was also the starting point for Richard Hollingshead’s creation. A movie fan and sales manager at Whiz Auto Products in Camden, NJ, Hollingshead is credited for creating the drive-in-movie. At his job at his father’s company, Hollingshead worked around cars and became inspired.
According to the Smithsonian, “The concept of showing movies wasn’t novel; people often watched silent screens set up at beaches or other places boasting an abundance of sky. However, it took this auto-parts salesman from the Garden State to deliver a leisurely event that tied in with America’s car-loving society one more activity they could do in their vehicles.”
Revving it up
As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” According to New York Film Academy, the first patented drive-in opened on June 6, 1933. Hollingshead dreamed up the idea as a solution for those, like his own mother, who had difficulty fitting into the rather small movie seats available at traditional theaters.
Hollingshead yearned to create a spacious, open-air theater where people could watch movies in the comfort of their own automobiles. The History Channel cites that, “He experimented in the driveway of his own house with different projection and sound techniques, mounting a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, pinning a screen to some trees, and placing a radio behind the screen for sound. He also tested ways to guard against rain and other inclement weather and devised the ideal spacing arrangement for a number of cars so that all would have a view of the screen.”
In May of 1933, Hollingshead was granted a patent for his concept. The first drive-in movie theatre to debut was Camden Drive-in in Pennsauken, NJ. British comedy Wives Beware was the first movie to be shown.
Of course, Hollingshead’s success sparked the launch of many more drive-ins in every state in the US and in international locales.
Drive-ins remained quite popular especially after WWII and during the 1950s and ’60s – the concept really appealed to the Baby Boomer generation. At the time, there were about 5,000 theaters in America.
Unfortunately, interest began to wane with the introduction of the VCR. When VCRs became more mainstream, drive-in movies took a backseat to a new favorite pastime – watching movies from the comfort of your own home. Families were delighted at the idea of not having to pay admission for every member of the family.
According to the National Association of Theater Owners, 549 drive-ins remained in the US in 2020. The Hudson Valley boasts a few of them.
Four Brothers Drive-in in Amenia, NY
Amenia, NY’s Four Brothers Drive-in is rolling into its tenth season in business. Why a drive-in? “We always loved bringing people together and we love entertainment,” explained John Stefanopoulos, a family member who helps run the business. With plenty of open land and not much entertainment in the area, the drive-in concept proved to be a win.
This summer, Four Brothers will show first runs and classics. Movies are offered seven days per week, rain or shine. Live music entertains crowds on weekends. The summer schedule includes Mission: Impossible, Barbie, Fast & Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, Transformers, and Wonka, to name a few. There are also some iconic throwbacks such as Back to the Future, Grease, and Jaws.
On the topic of throwbacks, Four Brothers will host several throwback events, which will include guest appearances. It teams up with Boondock’s Film Society to present a showing of Wayne’s World on May 25th. The event will boast a special menu and offer pre-show entertainment. Other special events are planned, so stay tuned.
Also, on site are camping, and glamping at Hotel Caravana – one of the most unique airstream hotels in the world (as written about on Lonely Planet’s top airstreams in the world content).
Four Brothers also features a chic outside patio for dining. There’s a playground, open field for enjoying time with the kids or with pets, a fire pit, and electric car charging stations. “It’s very happening over here,” says Stefanopoulos.
Four Brothers’ drive-in venue attracts everyone from those enjoying date night to families, groups of friend, and kids. The cost is $15 per person (walk-ins or people on bikes are welcome; guests can bring their own radios or use one provided by Four Brothers) and $10 for kids and veterans.
There’s plenty of appeal in a drive-in movie experience. “It’s more flexible than traditional movies. There’s more freedom at drive-ins. It’s not so much about the movie but the whole experience,” says Stefanopoulos.
Food is available from the Four Brothers restaurant menu, which offers top-notch fare including salmon burgers, meat burgers, Impossible burgers, chicken sandwiches, truffle fries, lobster rolls, and beyond. “We’ve been building some serious attention around how our lobster rolls are best in area,” added Stefanopoulos.
The beverage offering includes fresh lemonade, iced lattes, and Nutella shakes, as well as wine, margaritas, and beyond. Another snack menu highlights soft serve and other ice creams as well as sundaes and other treats.
“What’s so special about our theater is that it’s also a venue – we have done weddings, graduations, fundraisers, car shows, corporate getaways, outings, screenings for A-list stars, events for the community, and the list goes on,” concluded Stefanopoulos.
Four Brothers traces its history back to the 1970s when the Stefanopoulos brothers emigrated from Greece. Their strong unity cultivated ideas, love for one another, and inspiration. In 1972, they opened their first locale in Connecticut. By 1974 the brothers owned five restaurants – one by the name of Brothers Pizza. It was during this period that they developed their famous pizza recipe at the Brothers Pizza location in Lakeville, CT.
The collaboration between the four brothers inspired the name, Four Brothers Pizza Inn. Since then, the Stefanopoulos brothers have expanded their portfolio to nine restaurants and added The Boathouse in Lakeville, CT. The family taps their local farm for dairy products and their olive orchards in Greece for olive oil.
To learn more you can visit the Four Brothers Drive-in at 4957 NY-22,
Amenia, NY, or visit them online at playeatdrink.com.
Other outdoor flicks: Movies Under the Walkway, Poughkeepsie, NY
Throughout summer and into the fall, Movie Nights Under the Walkway in Poughkeepsie offers free, family-friendly movies to the public. The bonus: there’s also musical entertainment. The Saturday dates include June 24 (classic movie night); July 22 (superhero night and kids costume contest); and August 5 (animation night). At press time, the organization was still finalizing the movie titles, which will be released on Memorial Day weekend.
With the help of several other not-for-profits and area businesses, MHR Foundation spearheaded the creation of movie nights in 2015. The initiative is part of the Foundation’s vision to improve both the quality of life and sense of community in the Hudson Valley. Since its inception, MHR Foundation has donated more than $500K to local non-profits. The movies will be shown in the Upper Landing Park in Poughkeepsie. The pre shows kick off at 7pm; the films start at sundown. Food vendors will be on site offering refreshments. Free parking is available at Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum & Metro North. Sunshine only, guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs.
Movies Under the Walkway are located at 83 N. Water St., Poughkeepsie, NY, or you can visit them online at mhrfoundation.org.
Movies Under the Stars, Kingston, NY
Movies Under the Stars is an annual summer series of free family-friendly events. Its 2023 season will run from May to August and will feature everything from family-friendly films to diverse musical performances by jazz, country, rock, and Latin artists. It will also feature live performance art. All events are free of charge and held at multiple locations throughout the city.
For more information, visit kingston-ny.gov/moviesandmusic or the Parks and Rec facebook page, facebook.com/kingstonparksrec
Boondocks Film Society, Various location, USA
Boondocks Film Society is a nonprofit pop-up film series, which is held at locations throughout the Hudson Valley, Litchfield Hills, and the Berkshires. Beyond watching a movie, guests can enjoy drinking and dining at each locale. A mixologist will be on site at every event to craft themed cocktails while a chef will be on hand to whip up themed menus.
In June, Gedney Farm in Marlborough, MA, will show a movie, but at press time, the film was not ready to be announced. On July 14, Who Framed Roger Rabbit will debut at South Farms in Morris, CT. The event will feature live “Prohibition Era” jazz, movie-themed food, and craft cocktails.
To learn more about the Boondock Film Society, visit them online at boondocksfilmsociety.org.