Building condemned. The roof on the candy-cane striped projector building is falling in. Caution: do not enter. Tape blocks every entrance. No Trespassing. Branches with drying, autumn leaves grow through gaps in the screen.
We’re not going to try getting any closer.
Opens Tonight! On May 29, 1950 it was a different story. COME bring your family… Your friends. Four hundred and fifty cars packed into the field to watch the Memorial Day weekend double feature, The Story of Seabiscuit and The Gay Ranchero.
The drive-in movie theater was an icon of twentieth-century America. As a kid in Britain, I loved seeing a drive-in appear in an old movie. They were so cool, so alien: they’d never have worked in the UK. Too cold and wet.
This one, the Middle Hope Drive-In a few miles north of Newburgh, New York, was one of the early ones. An odd one, too. You can see the screen from the road. Anyone at the liquor store across the road would have got a free show every night.
The 1950s was the golden age of the drive-in. Hot dogs and root beer, Ford Thunderbirds, science fiction double features.
From the late 60s the Drive-In was threatened from all sides. Multiplex cinemas provided more choice, better sound and comfortable seats. Land prices were going up, making the economics of the Drive-In unsustainable. People now had high-quality colour TVs at home and pay TV was just around the corner. By the 70s, Drive-Ins were in terminal decline.
While a handful survive today, the Middle Hope only lasted until October 1987. Despite an attempt to revive it, it has sat decaying since then.
We stood by the roadside looking down. I imagined watching Dr Carrington trying to reason with The Thing from Another World, or Sgt Peterson attacked by Them!, giant mutant ants in the New Mexico desert.
Once a place of fun, today there’s a sharp chill in the air.
It’s time for us to leave.
Middle Hope Drive-In Movie Theater, Middle Hope NY
Address: 5258 Route 9W North, Newburgh, NY 12550