Northfield Drive-in Screen Dreams

Time machines can be unreliable, especially those beaters that you spot on eBay. Try one that features dancing hot dogs, “Forbidden Planet,” kids in PJs on the playground and, perhaps, a stolen kiss — all fond memories from that perfect confluence of America’s love for the movies and their cars: the drive-in theater. Steve Wiggin and his wife, Julia, own the Northfield Drive-in, likely the oldest in the state. Established in 1948, it continues to serve up barrels of popcorn and nostalgia, transporting you through time, away from your couch and flat screen, to a movie experience like no other on a warm summer’s night.

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Photo by David Mendelsohn

  • Sure, there can definitely be a resurgence of drive-ins. Coming out of Covid, folks are wanting to get out to do activities in a safe environment; drive-ins across the country have been considered a safe open-air venue to gather. 
  • More importantly, what we are witnessing is the multigenerational attendance. We often have grandparents, their children and the children’s children rendezvousing at the drive-in or all coming in the same vehicle.  
  • The grandparents and parents enjoy telling the stories of their summers at the movies, making out in the back row, eating their first fried dough and watching movies in their pajamas. 
  • The drive-in is literally in our backyard; it abuts our home and business property.  
  • My initial thought was that this will be our retirement — something fun to do during the summer months — and then we can concentrate on our other interests and volunteer work in the off season.
  • The acquisition of the drive-in was a somewhat private sale. A realtor had it listed on the “Swap Shop” of the local radio station. Can you imagine that? Swap Shop!
  • Some things were, and still are, antiquated. We have been making improvements quite regularly, with the highest priority on Covid safety and protection for our staff and patrons.
  • Northfield Drive-in is bisected by two states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. [It’s in Winchester on our side.] To Julia and me, this is not unusual. Our house property is in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as is the property that we own directly cross the street from our residence.  
  • And, yes, we pay taxes in both states.
  • We have folks tell us all the time that our concession prices are very reasonable.
  • Julia really likes the red beet and kale veggie burgers, sweet potato fries with chipotle seasoning and the seasoned mozzarella sticks with marinara. I love the cheeseburger (a big 6-ounce patty — that’s more than a quarter-pounder) and our extra large onion rings. An all-time guest favorite is the fried dough. 
  • If you do sneak food in, we expect you to take out your trash and not leave it with us.  
  • Nothing gets our dander up more than seeing a pile of pizza boxes or McDonald’s wrappers in our trash cans.

Save the Drive-ins! Write a Jingle!

BreatnwooddriveinfieldmiceThe survival of the Northfied Drive-in is an inspiring exception to the rule. There are fewer than 20 drive-in theaters still operating in New England (three of them are in New Hampshire) with many still shuttered to all but the local wildlife — like the Brentwood Drive-in, pictured at right, that operated in the early 1960s. But the Wiggins are intent on keeping their own piece of cinema history open. Their current idea to promote the joys of outdoor movie viewing sounds suitably retro. “Knowing that we can’t always be in the past, even with one of the oldest drive-ins, Julia and I have been talking about having a jingle contest,” says Steve Wiggin. “Our desire is that we can get some local talent to write and produce some new material for the preshow concession ads and intermission. If any of your readers have an interest in submitting a song and/or video, please feel free to reach out to us at admin@northfielddrivein.com.”

And if you do submit a song, jingle, video or flash mob idea to Steve, please copy us at editor@nhmagazine.com so we can share it with our readers, too.

Categories: Family-friendly things to do, People