Top Drive-In Movie Theaters In Connecticut

June 27, 2014 8:00 AM

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Drive-in movie theaters have seen better days. Times have changed, and few of the theaters, most of which date from the 1950s, do not have and cannot afford the new digital technology Hollywood requires for showing its feature films. Connecticut has only three drive-ins left, and only one of them is a going concern. One is struggling to raise money from local businesses and organizations with the hope of opening for the summer 2014 season, and another is a community-operated nostalgia theater that shows older films as a way to raise funds for charities.

Mansfield Drive-In
228 Stafford Road
Mansfield, CT 06250
(860) 423-4441

The Mansfield Drive-In is unique, as it is not only a drive-in movie theater but also a “marketplace” (at least on Sundays, when it hosts a huge flea market from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. “rain or shine”). The theater is located at the junctions of routes 31 and 32, has three big screens and runs a double-feature on each. The main feature is always a new film, while the second is usually from the previous month or two. The Mansfield Drive-In is only open three nights a week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and showings begin at 8:15 p.m. No pets, fires or grills are allowed, but otherwise patrons can pack in their own food and drinks if they wish. There is a full-service snack bar that offers burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, popcorn, candy and other snacks as well as “other things” as the owners charmingly note.

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Southington Drive-In
935 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike
Southington, CT 06489

The Southington Drive-In has found a clever way to survive: it lets patrons vote on the movies it will show. It is not a commercial operation per se, but a “community-owned, volunteer-operated” concern dedicated to keeping the drive-in tradition alive. The original theater went out of business in 2002 after nearly 50 years in operation. Two years later, the citizens of Southington agreed that the town should buy it and restore it as part of its town recreation area. Now in its fifth season, the Southington Drive-In has become not only a landmark but also a great source of revenue for community projects, raising over $50,000 for 15 civic groups in town. Each of those and other groups and organizations in town sponsor a night, provide additional volunteers and reap a portion of the receipts. This spring and summer, the Southington Drive-In will show a wide variety of current and classic films, from “Jaws” and “E.T.” to this winter’s Disney hit, “Frozen.” Instead of a snack bar, local food vendors set up tables and booths. Patrons are allowed to bring in food and beverages (but not alcohol).

Pleasant Valley Drive-In
47 River Road
Barkhamsted, CT 06063
(860) 379-6102

Despite reports to the contrary, the Pleasant Valley Drive-In is not dead – at least not yet. Two big fundraising events in April brought in a considerable amount of money for the group that is doing its best to help owner Donna McGrane stay in business. McGrane and her supporters have also received donations and pledges of support from local businesses and from Honda motor company, which sponsors “Project Drive-In” for the express purpose of keeping places like the Pleasant Valley theater in business. The theater did operate in 2013,  and McGrane hopes to be open for the summer season.

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Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at

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