Now in her ninth season at the Bridgton Drive-In, Annmarie Sargent takes a reel off the projector and places it on the rewind stand while the film plays behind her Saturday night, April 7, 2012. Buy Photo
Bridgton Drive-In owner John Tevanian sells tickets at the gate of his two screen operation Saturday night April 7, 2012. He opened the week before, on March 30, his earliest opening ever. Buy Photo
A dozen or so cars braved spitting snow and temperatures in the 40s to take in a double feature at the Bridgton Drive-In on Saturday night. The summer institution on Route 302, built in 1957, opened for the season March 30 — its earliest opening ever.
Owner John Tevanian’s family bought the drive-in in 1971 after building the Prides Corner Drive-In just down the road in Westbrook in 1953, which Tevanian’s little brother now runs.
“I was born into it,” Tevanian said.
But he wasn’t always sure he’d be running the family business. There used to be more than 4,000 drive-ins across the 50 states, according to Tevanian. Now there are just 400 or so, with five in Maine.
“I was convinced when I went away to college, in the ’80s, that when I came back it would be gone,” he said from behind the snack bar counter.
He has seen the drive-in go through rough patches over the years, from having a slightly seedy reputation in the ’70s, to being a hangout for teenagers in the ’80s, to the family-friendly venue it is today.
“It’s a total family event now,” he said. “I’ll take G- or PG-rated movies over an R any day.”
In 2000 he added a second screen. In a couple of weeks he plans to replace the dilapidated sign out front. Despite the cold start to the season, Tevanian said he doesn’t plan on quitting just yet. He’s currently taking applications for summer help.
Bridgton Drive-In owner John Tevanian’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.