A last look at the big screens in the night sky

Posted Sept. 16, 2013, at 4:26 p.m.
The familiar 20th Century Fox logo flashes on the screen at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In as summer trails off into autumn. Owner John Tevanian has plans to convert to digital projectors over the winter.
The familiar 20th Century Fox logo flashes on the screen at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In as summer trails off into autumn. Owner John Tevanian has plans to convert to digital projectors over the winter. Buy Photo
Christian Carrieri, 10, of Melrose, Mass., plays catch with his father before a double feature at Westbrook's Prides Corner Drive-In. It was Carrieri's first time at a drive-in.
Christian Carrieri, 10, of Melrose, Mass., plays catch with his father before a double feature at Westbrook's Prides Corner Drive-In. It was Carrieri's first time at a drive-in. Buy Photo
Cars pass screen one as they enter the Bridgton Twin Drive-In on their way to screen two. Owner John Tevanian has been gearing up for the switch to digital projectors for a few years and plans to convert in the off-season.
Cars pass screen one as they enter the Bridgton Twin Drive-In on their way to screen two. Owner John Tevanian has been gearing up for the switch to digital projectors for a few years and plans to convert in the off-season. Buy Photo
Kids stroll under the big screen at the Prides Corner Drive-In as night falls in Westbrook. Andrew Tevanian, whose father opened the drive-in in 1953, told the BDN in August, &quotIt's not just a drive-in, but a way of life."
Kids stroll under the big screen at the Prides Corner Drive-In as night falls in Westbrook. Andrew Tevanian, whose father opened the drive-in in 1953, told the BDN in August, "It's not just a drive-in, but a way of life." Buy Photo
Leaving her shoes behind, Danielle Gagnon, 8, skips rope before the movies start at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In.
Leaving her shoes behind, Danielle Gagnon, 8, skips rope before the movies start at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In. Buy Photo
The Carrieri siblings (from left) Christian, 10, Jenna, 12, and Marina, 7, get their picture taken at Westbrook's Prides Corner Drive-In.
The Carrieri siblings (from left) Christian, 10, Jenna, 12, and Marina, 7, get their picture taken at Westbrook's Prides Corner Drive-In. Buy Photo
Cars line the grounds at the Saco Drive-In where movies have been lighting up summer nights since 1939. The theater is the second-oldest operational drive-in in the country.
Cars line the grounds at the Saco Drive-In where movies have been lighting up summer nights since 1939. The theater is the second-oldest operational drive-in in the country. Buy Photo
John Tevanian of the Bridgton Twin Drive-In threads film through screen two's projector on Labor Day Weekend. Screen two has seen its last film-projected movie as Tevanian has since shut it down and started remodeling for a digital projector.
John Tevanian of the Bridgton Twin Drive-In threads film through screen two's projector on Labor Day Weekend. Screen two has seen its last film-projected movie as Tevanian has since shut it down and started remodeling for a digital projector. Buy Photo
Corinne Ericson waits for the next carload at the Saco Drive-In theater's ticket booth. The owners of the drive-in, which first opened in 1939, won a national contest, netting them a brand new digital projector.
Corinne Ericson waits for the next carload at the Saco Drive-In theater's ticket booth. The owners of the drive-in, which first opened in 1939, won a national contest, netting them a brand new digital projector. Buy Photo
The Estes family (from left) Nichole, Grace, 5, Kyle, 8, and Matthew wait for the start of a double feature at Westbrook's Prides Corner Drive-In. The open-air theater opened in 1952 on what used to be the Pride family farm.
The Estes family (from left) Nichole, Grace, 5, Kyle, 8, and Matthew wait for the start of a double feature at Westbrook's Prides Corner Drive-In. The open-air theater opened in 1952 on what used to be the Pride family farm. Buy Photo
Behind the scenes in the Prides Corner Drive-In cinder block projection booth in Westbrook, an old clock tells the time, but not the date.
Behind the scenes in the Prides Corner Drive-In cinder block projection booth in Westbrook, an old clock tells the time, but not the date. Buy Photo
Andrew Tevanian, who runs the Prides Corner Drive-In, peers from the projection booth as he focuses the second film in a double feature. Tevanian told the BDN in August that closing the theater was not an option.
Andrew Tevanian, who runs the Prides Corner Drive-In, peers from the projection booth as he focuses the second film in a double feature. Tevanian told the BDN in August that closing the theater was not an option. Buy Photo
Film splicing equipment at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In won't be used next year when owner John Tevanian converts to digital projectors.
Film splicing equipment at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In won't be used next year when owner John Tevanian converts to digital projectors. Buy Photo
John Tevanian watches film roll from the platter, through pulleys, to the projector behind him at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In for one of the last times. Next summer he'll be projecting movies digitally.
John Tevanian watches film roll from the platter, through pulleys, to the projector behind him at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In for one of the last times. Next summer he'll be projecting movies digitally. Buy Photo

As summer winks out in September’s cool dusk, Maine’s drive-in theaters will light up the night for a just few more weekends. Giant images will flicker across the screen while families munch popcorn on truck tailgates. Kids will fall asleep before the end of the second movie, and teenagers will probably make-out somewhere in the back row. Then, the credits will roll, the final few feet of film will trundle between the bulb and the lens. The lights will go out. Summer will be over.

One good thing about summer is that it always comes back. With any luck, so will the drive-in movies. None of Maine’s drive-ins have said they won’t be back next year, but the looming lack of 35mm film prints has put small movie operators everywhere in a bind.

The 74-year-old Saco Drive-In just won a digital projector from Project Honda. So, they should be just fine.

“Oh my God. I don’t even know how to explain it. So many emotions all at once,” owner Ry Russell said last week.

John Tevanian, owner of the Bridgton Twin Drive-In has been preparing for the conversion for a few years. He built a new, snazzier snack bar to help finance it. Last weekend, he shut down screen two and started remodeling to make way for a digital projector.

“That’s it for 35mm film on screen 2,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Screen one will be open a bit longer, but by next year, he’ll be all digital.

The Skowhegan Drive-In is running a crowdfunding campaign to aid with its conversion. Madawaska’s Skylite Drive-In has movies scheduled through Sept. 19.

Andrew Tevanian, at the Prides Corner Drive-In in Westbrook doesn’t have a definite plan for converting, but says he doesn’t plan on shutting down after this season. He said in August that as long as he was alive, the show would go on.

Let’s hope so.

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