Warming weather means, among other things, the seasonal reopening of the mid-Hudson Valley’s remarkable riches in the form of drive-in movie theaters. After a shaky period in the late 20-aughts and early 20-teens when the need to switch over to digital projection systems drove some older operators out of business and brought in some new ones, the local outdoor screen scene seems to have stabilized. These holdovers from the ’50 and ’60s have been modernizing in a variety of ways – including, in some cases, putting up two or more screens at the same location – while striving to hold onto their vintage charm. Some are upping their culinary game, another reincarnating as a repertory cinema, and one even offers overnight accommodations in the form of a 1967 Airstream trailer.
Most of the drive-ins offer double features nightly, with listed starting times approximate, since the first feature can’t really start until it’s fully dark. Make sure you check with the venue before heading out; schedules tend to be more changeable than indoor cinemas. And be aware, if you haven’t visited one since their mid-20th-century heyday, that the times of “one admission price per carload” are long gone. Here’s a brief rundown of your choices:
This is the one with the Airstream, officially known as the Hotel Caravana, which sleeps four and also comes with a deck and vintage bicycles on loan for overnighters. A major renovation has just been completed at the Grand Shack snack bar, open from 11 a.m. on and known for its imaginative fast food, including salmonburgers, BLTs, deep-fried pickles, Nutella milkshakes and homemade ginger beer. There’s car-hop delivery, an EV charging station and they’ll even clean your windshield for you. Four Brothers shows first-run double features from spring until mid-to-late October, seven nights a week, of mostly family-friendly fare. It also hosts weddings and private parties. Admission costs $11, $8 for veterans and seniors (65+), $6 for kids 5 to 10 years and is free for children under 5.
This theater, opened in 1950, had a narrow escape from a plan by a developer to build a Wal-Mart on the site in the late 1990s. But local historic preservationists were of the opinion that a parcel of land situated directly across Route 9 from the entrance to the FDR Home and Library Historic Site was not an appropriate place for a big-box store. Scenic Hudson intervened, taking the property off the market in 2000 and conveying it to the National Park Service in 2011. It may not stay a drive-in theater forever, so enjoy it while you can. The Hyde Park Drive-In is open from mid-April through mid-September, on weekends up until Memorial Day and seven days a week thereafter, rain or shine. Admission costs $10 for adults, $7 for children aged 5 to 11, and is free for children under 5.
Owned by the same family as the Hyde Park Drive-In, the Overlook has the same April-to-September season and the same pricing structure: $10 for adults, $7 for children aged 5 to 11 and free for children under 5. It is distinguished by its six-story-high screen, the largest in the Tri-State area.
Built in 1950, this theater was expanded to two screens under new ownership in 1982. It now shows six first-run features each night during the summer season on three outdoor screens. Admission costs $12 for adults, $8 for children aged 4 to 11 and seniors (65+) and is free for children under 4.
Under new ownership since 2016, the Fair Oaks Drive-In is currently putting finishing touches on improvements to its grounds and snack bar. Persistent rainy weather has delayed reopening for the 2019 season, and as of presstime May 23 was the projected date to be up and running again. Check the website for updates. Ticket prices are $9 for adults, $6 for children aged 5 to 11 and free for kids under 4.
With four, count ’em, four screens showing all first-run fare, the Hi-Way Drive-In is the biggest multiplex in our region. It’s open weekends only from early April until Memorial Day, then seven nights a week through Labor Day, after which it goes back again to a weekend schedule. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for ages 3 to 11 and are free for children under 3.
First opened in 1959, the Greenville Drive-In had a close brush with mortality at the advent of the digital age. But new owners with enough funds to replace the projection system took over in 2015, and the following spring saw a swanky reopening party featuring champagne and oysters. It’s the only outdoor cinema in our area to depart from the standard drive-in fare of newly released, big-budget feature films, going for the art-house crowd instead by screening popular classics. For instance, on Saturday, May 18, the place is showing the 1938 Howard Hawks screwball comedy Bringing up Baby, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant (and a pet leopard). From Thursday to Sunday, May 23 to 26, it’s screening either Footloose, Dirty Dancing or both. Office Space will be shown on May 31 and June 1, Babe on June 7 and 8 and Dazed and Confused on June 14 and 15. Live music is featured at the Saturday shows, and emerging local filmmakers are also welcomed to screen and discuss their newest works several times a season. The on-premises snack shack emphasizes locally sourced foods, and there’s also a Projectionists’ Club Beer Garden featuring local microbrews. Admission costs $8 for adults, $4 for kids ages 5 to 12; kids 4 and younger get in free.