Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
If you grew up in the 1950s or 1960s, chances are you will have been to a drive-in movie theatre, on a family outing or out on a date.
Either way, for most, it was a pleasant night out to see a movie on the big screen and enjoy some buttery popcorn under the stars.
Advancements in indoor cinemas, television and streaming services such as Netflix have long since sent drive-ins by the wayside; but as the pandemic leaves people worrying about being in a crowded cinema audience and nostalgic for simpler times, the drive-in theatre entertainment experience once again is coming to mind.
Catherine Croft brought the experience back to life this summer with the South Shore Drive-In Saturday nights in Mill Village. It has allowed people to comfortably come together at a time when we are being told we have to be apart.
"Our goal was to align us once again as a community during COVID. I think we succeeded in connecting families again," said Croft, South Shore Drive-In's owner and operator. "We're overwhelmed with the support and the number of people that have been coming out."
Volunteer Charlotte White has been "a monster fundraiser," according to Croft. "Without her, the Hank Snow Society and all of the other sponsors, supporters, volunteers and movie-goers, this wouldn't happen."
Each Saturday, filmgoers enjoyed classic movies such as Twister, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Fast and The Furious, and Jurassic Park, that were projected on the 20 foot by 40 foot screen erected on the exterior of the old Pole Star Building. Members of the Mill Village Fire Department were on hand to help with parking and whatever else was needed.
Twenty-two vehicles and their occupants were there for the first showing - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - on July 4. The numbers grew and the first show in August attracted a full lot of about 50 vehicles.
The goal is to set-up in a permanent location at Hank Snow Park in Liverpool, however. Croft and a group of volunteers have been working on the project for about eight years.
"It was put on the back-burner and it just wasn't the right time, I guess," said Croft.
This summer was the right time to rethink the project, however. With renewed interest in bringing people together, an army of volunteers banded together to undertake fundraising and promotions to kick start the project.
The venue at the Hank Snow Park will be able to hold about 200 vehicles.
While most drive-ins project the movie on to plywood or chipboard, the Liverpool venue will feature what looks like a "ginormous sail." Extensions on top of poles will hold rigging similar to that found on sailboats. The rigging will help raise the screen while tension will be added to the bottom to keep it straight and steady.
"With our history here in Queens County and our talent and ability to look outside of the box, I am quite proud of this," said Croft, while crediting engineer Rick Gilbert who was behind the screen dea.
Cost to attend the movies over the summer has been $10 per vehicle, with some of the money going to the drive-in's partners such as the Mill Village Fire Department, and the remainder going into a so-called "boon fund."
Croft hopes to begin a program that will distribute money back to groups with community-based ideas.
Some of the South Shore Drive-In events coming up include the Grand Opening at the Hank Snow Community Park on September 12 and Aerosmith's live-streamed concert from Boston on September 18.
Movies will continue through the rest of September and October, closing out the season with a "shocking" Halloween weekend.