A Nostalgic Escape
Drive-in theaters (and even a music hall) offer a much-needed dose of socially distanced joy
Going to a theater and enjoying a movie with a big bag of buttery popcorn is great, but what about enjoying the same luxuries from the comfort of your own car? We may not be able to go to movie theaters right now, but drive-ins are open to make up for months of lost cinematic entertainment. New Hampshire’s three drive-in movie theaters are preparing for an increase in foot and car traffic this coming Memorial Day weekend, and have been busy altering concession stands, adding touchless pay systems, and making sure cars are appropriately spaced according to state coronavirus guidelines. While there has been a recent resurgence of interest in the drive-in movie experience, the interest hasn’t only been for movies.
“You name it, we’ve been getting a call for it,” says Milford Drive-In owner Barry Scharmett. “People are coming out of the woodwork with calls about high school graduations, college graduations, comedy acts, and even local musicians asking to do concerts. While I wish that we could accommodate everything, we can’t due to state guidelines and coronavirus restrictions, but we will continue to offer the best drive-in movie experience that we can offer.”
Last weekend was the drive-in’s opening weekend, and while Scharmett had his hesitations, he says that it couldn’t have been a smoother opening. “You never know how people will act, especially in the middle of a global crisis, but we opened without an issue at all,” notes Scharmett. “Everything was fantastic and people couldn’t have been more polite. Everyone was respectful of the other’s space and abided by the social distancing rules. People were incredibly cordial with one another — it was nice to see.”
The Milford drive-in is operating at half capacity to allow for proper distancing between cars, and the concession stand has been altered so customers can buy food outside. Moviegoers also have to sit in or near their cars, and when they leave their car, they must wear a mask or face covering. This weekend, “Jumanji: The Next Level” and “Dolittle” will be paired with “Bloodshot” and “Bad Boys for Life” for a double feature on both of the theater’s screens. Tickers are $30 a vehicle and can be purchased through the Milford Drive-In website. Under state guidelines, theaters can only admit half the amount of cars they normally would, which means that we recommend grabbing your ticket sooner rather than later.
The Milford Drive-In isn’t the only drive-in to experience unique community requests. New owners of the Northfield Drive-In, Steven and Julia Wiggin, have received inquiries for graduations, church services and Girl Scout ceremonies that they hope to accommodate before their June opening, and well after. “We are in the process of working on renovations and preparing to open with all of the precautionary measures for coronavirus in place the first or second weekend of June,” says Julia Wiggin. “Our calendar is slammed from June to August with anything from high school graduations to award ceremonies. It’s nice to be able to serve our community in this way.” The theater will also be opening in early June for one movie a night, so be sure to check their Facebook page for movie lineups and other information. While you are waiting for the drive-in to open, head over to the iconic Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater in Weirs Beach.
According to a Facebook post on May 1, The Weirs Drive-In is planning on opening this weekend for Memorial Day, but be aware that it is affected by construction on the bridge on Route 3 in Weirs Beach. “Barring any additional unfortunate events, the Weirs Drive-In is planning on opening for movies on Memorial Day weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday),” the post says. “We would open sooner but there is this bridge. It’s under construction by the state. We have to wait on the construction to wrap up before we can open.” While you wait, check out their Facebook page to chime in on your favorite older movie that you wish to see when they open. Who knows, maybe your “Dirty Dancing,” “Sixteen Candles” or “Friday the 13th” movie idea will be picked for one of their summer showings.
Local businesses are also getting creative and are participating in the drive-in fun. Tupelo Music Hall in Derry is transforming into the Tupelo Drive-In Music Hall, where you can sit in your car and listen to the show broadcast through the Derry FM station as a socially distanced concert. Since every other parking spot will be empty, you can also bring a lawn chair and sit in the empty spot next to the driver’s side and listen to the band or artist who will be playing on the riser. Concertgoers can also enjoy food delivered to their car by golf cart if it is ordered ahead of time. If you can’t make it to concerts in person, they will also be streamed on the website. The next performance is May 23 and will feature Kasim Sulton. While businesses like Tupelo Music Hall are going the musical route, others are using their parking lots for pop-up drive-in movies. BarnZ’s Barrington Cinema will soon be turning its parking lot into a drive-in movie theater that will benefit the New Hampshire Food Bank. The pop-up will accommodate 60 cars and offer locals a safe way to get out and spend time together. The lot will open this Thursday at 6 p.m. with the “Goonies” starting at 8 p.m. followed by the 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman.”
The joy, charm, nostalgia and low-cost entertainment that drive-ins offer are exactly what Granite Staters are craving — and need. Even though you won’t be able to get the classic drive-in movie tailgate experience, you will still be able to lie in the back of your truck with your family and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of summer whether you are at a drive-in or in a parking lot watching “The Sandlot,” or enjoying a local concert from the front seat of your car. Drive-ins are a thing of the past, but we hope that they are here to stay.