The 2022 season could be the last for the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater

Opera theater

A car is parked at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater on Saturday during the penultimate night of films showing at the Skowhegan theatre. Michael G. Seamans / Morning Watchman

The Skowhegan Drive-In Theater has been open since 1954, during what is considered the golden age of cinema and is currently one of Maine’s last drive-ins.

Bangor and Saco announced their closure earlier this year.

“The Bangor Drive-In and the Saco Drive-In have closed and it looks like the Skowhegan drive-in may have to close as well,” owner Don Brown said.

“In 2019, before pandemic operations were normal,” Brown said. “In the second week of the 2022 season, the ratings dropped. It’s unlike anything else before. We were about to just work week to week.

Brown is the sixth owner of the drive-in since it opened.

Moviegoers watch ‘Grease’ on Saturday, the penultimate night of movies at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans / Morning Watchman

He said many people stream movies at home from Amazon, Netflix and many other services, and he said few big box office movies hit theaters.

“There’s no big box office draw for Maine’s demographics. A lot of older Mainers aren’t interested in seeing these movies with a lot of special effects,” Brown said. “People’s interest in movies seems to have waned.”

Brown notes that after the big early summer run of movies like “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and “Jurassic World Dominion,” there was nothing else left in cinemas that people were interested in.

“I would definitely like to see the drive-in survive,” he said. “I would love to see a community organization come together and try to buy it out and run it as a nonprofit.”

Brown mentioned there was a drive-in movie theater in Nashville, Tennessee, which was about to close when an organization known as Hull’s Angels took over operations and now runs it as a nonprofit theater. lucrative.

Brown has been in contact with Main Street Skowhegan as well as Maine Preservation to request inclusion on the state’s list of most endangered historic places. But he heard nothing back.

For the past few years, during the pandemic, the drive-in has been used as a site for Maine International Film Festival screenings.

“The folks at MIFF have been a great support for the theatre,” he said. “The first year of the pandemic all the movies were at the drive-in, the second there were four screenings here, and this year they had a special drive-in night. They want to return to this “new normal” and return to screenings at the Opera and the Railroad Square cinema (in Waterville). »

Brown hopes a solution can be found so the theater can continue to operate, but he has his doubts.

“I really hope we can move forward,” he said. “I really wish the community had more support for theater. I don’t know why it happened.

“It’s hard to be confident in the future of the industry right now. This American experience seems to be coming to an end.

Brown said the drive-in is available to rent through mid-October for things like Halloween screenings. After that, when the time comes to winterize the theater, the future is still uncertain.

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