At The Drive-In: A Must-Visit Movie Theater in the Catskills
The breeze carries the scent of fresh-cut grass through the open window of your parked car. The pastel sky darkens as the sun sinks behind the rolling Catskill Mountains under a blanket of dewy pink clouds. The projector sets the screen aglow, which activates some other magic and ignites a tingle between your ribs.
The drive-in movie. The perfect intersection of nature, art, and technology. The summertime hearth of small-town America. Easily one of the most triumphant American inventions, alongside jazz and cocktails (which were perfected, if not officially invented, here in the States).
With that in mind, it's hard to imagine a more patriotic event than the Greenville Drive-In's opening day, May 6, 2017. The $25 ticket price includes live jazz standards by Andrew Stein, French 75 cocktails at the Projectionists Club Garden (the drive-in's full-service open-air bar), and a screening of the silver screen classic, Casablanca. Plus, in honor of the film's locale, customers who buy tickets before May 1 will get a "nosh box" of Moroccan snacks from Tara Kitchen to eat at a picnic table in the half-tented cocktail garden or take back to your car.
"We are going into our third season, and we are where we want to be as this unusual situation with movies and a craft cocktail garden," says Dwight Grimm, who co-owns the single-screen drive-in with his wife, Leigh Van Swall.
Only 336 drive-in theaters remain open and active in the United States today, mostly because the cost of showing first-run films is too steep for a small business. Even though the Greenville Drive-In has a 250-car capacity, it's nearly impossible for ticket sales to recoup the exorbitant cost of showing a film the first week it comes out. "The economics of trying to be a first-run theater in a rural community with one screen that only shows at night just doesn't work. You need to make all your money from concession stand sales."
Of course, they do have a solid concession stand, serving popcorn, chili, hot dogs, vegan rice and beans, and local ice cream and popsicles. Their current business model includes showing 2 or 3 films from the current year (these are technically second-run movies, but they're often available as early as 2 weeks after their opening weekend), plus a weekly schedule of classic films and themed movie nights. The combination works. The Greenville Drive-In has become a local hang-out, a destination for weekenders, and a meeting place for film buffs and booze enthusiasts of all stripes. Dwight happily mentions overhearing from behind the bar "a very erudite conversation about wine" between a local plumber and a banker from the city.
He hopes to open the beautiful, grassy space (complete with a working kitchen, bathrooms, and a bar) to more daytime events, and the drive-in will host its first wedding this July. Other upcoming events for this summer include an Elvis night, live music on Saturdays, a car show, and a typewriter festival. And to accommodate out-of-towners who never want to leave, Dwight and Leigh are currently in the process of fixing up an Airstream trailer right on the grounds of the drive-in to rent to overnight guests.
The Greenville Drive-In is located at 10700 Rt. 32 in Greenville, New York; 518-966-2177.