The Grossly Biased Guide to the Berkshires

An opinionated guide to the wonders of Berkshire County, MA

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Fresh air, fresh films

August 1st, 2007by Ethan Zuckerman · No Comments

Hathaway’s Drive-In, 4762 Route 67, North Hoosick, NY

I always thought that Simeon’s pickup truck got him elected student body president at Williams College. Everyone needs a pickup truck now and again, and Simeon was uncommonly good about lending out his dirt-brown Mazda. On weekend nights, late in the spring, Simeon would put a mattress in the back of the truck and invite a dozen students to come with him to Coury’s Drive-In in North Adams, splitting the cost of admission so that it was a dollar apiece for a double feature. A few spring nights generated a lot of happy voters.

Coury’s is a WalMart now, the last of Berkshire County’s drive-in theatres to fall. I always assumed that Coury’s would survive - it shared a parking lot with Coury’s Auto Parts, and I imagined a business model in which parts from the cars of distracted drivers made it into the store’s inventory. Even if you could go to the drive-ins that used to be in Lanesboro, Pittsfield, Adams or Shelburne, you can’t ride in the back of a pickup anymore, and owners have wised up and now charge per head, not by the carload.

Despite this innovation in pricing, it’s not easy to make a living running a drive-in movie theatre. Karl and Liz Pingree, owners of Hathaway’s Drive-In in North Hoosick, NY, explain the economics of their business on their website. To cut to the chase, they make about $2 on each movie ticket, and make the rest on the concessions.

Perhaps to remind you of the economics, Karl makes change at the ticket booth in $2 bills - he tells me that he gets them from the bank in bundles. I guess it’s hard to run a drive-in movie theatre in 2007 without developing a certain sense of whimsy.

With movies in most mall cinemas at $9 a ticket, Hathaway’s is still a heck of a deal - it’s $7 for a double feature of first-run movies. We caught the new Harry Potter film last week and ducked out during the 1950s concession ads that preceded the second feature, Die Hard 27. During the film, we turned the radio to 88.1 to hear the soundtrack and sat on pillows in the truck bed, complementing our picnic with fries and onion rings from the snack bar. (Real fries. With potato skin on them and everything.)

Around us, families sat on lawn chairs, kids raced between cars, and, I assume, couples made out. (We did our best to keep our eyes on the screen.) A drive-in’s not the right place to watch a movie if you’re looking for silence, perfect sound or the solitary viewing experience. But if you’re looking for a little fresh air and a picnic with your new films, you’re hard pressed to do better than Hathaways.

Hathaways is open from late April through September, every night but Wednesdays. The first show begins shortly after dark, around 8:30pm most of the summer. If you need an excuse to make a trip, consider the all-night marathon on September 2nd, where the theatre will show four films back to back for one admission.

According to drive-ins.com, there are other open drive-ins to explore in Averill Park, Glenmont, Coxackie and Greenville, all over the border in New York. If you’ve got insights on why the drive-in has died out in Western Mass and survives to our west, I’d love to hear them.

Tags: outdoors · culture

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