- File: Luke Awtry
- Sunset Drive-In
Before the pandemic, many Vermonters regarded drive-in movies as quaint relics of the sock hop era. But by summer 2020, after a long winter and spring at home, folks were itching to get out of their home theaters and find safe ways to mingle. With social distancing already built into their setup and new precautions in place, the owners of Vermont's three permanent drive-ins were happy to host them.
In August, the Sunset Drive-In in Colchester was jammed with families who camped out in truck beds to watch classics such as The Goonies. The four-screen theater usually closes in October, but in 2020 it kept right on cranking — through the first snowfall and Christmas and into the New Year.
"I tell people to dress warm, bring a blanket," owner Peter Handy told Seven Days in December. "We are a sense of normalcy for these people during these COVID-unsafe times."
Our readers agreed, naming the Sunset Drive-In among their favorite al fresco film experiences. "They kept movies going for us movie buffs," one reader wrote. "Without them, I would not have made it through."
A lot of love also went to the "pop-up" drive-in movie experiences that proliferated around the state in summer 2020. "I really missed going to the movies, but this made up for it," a reader wrote of Essex Cinemas' parking lot drive-in.
In Morrisville, the Bijou Cineplex set up two outdoor screens for "a fun and affordable place to watch movies," another reader wrote. Yet another sang the praises of Catamount Arts' Drive-In to Stay Safe Movie & Music Series, writing, "Having something to look forward to and somewhere to go every weekend was a lifesaver for couples and families."
Even as Vermonters return to indoor theaters, many will treasure their memories of that summer of popcorn spilled in the back seat, when the on-screen action vied for their attention with the stars.