Sept. 24: Sunset Drive-In, Colchester VT

It’s Day 267 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Desperate for a drive-in that was showing movies on a Sunday night, I drove almost three hours almost due north from North Hoosick NY, just west of the border, to the Sunset Drive-In in Colchester VT, just east of it.

The Sunset opened as a single-screen drive-in on May 29, 1948. According to Seven Days, Vermont’s independent voice, Ernest and Dorothy Handy bought the Sunset from a developer that year and ran it until their retirement in 1979. That’s when it passed to their son, Peter Handy, who has owned it ever since.

The year after Peter took over, he added two more screens to the Sunset. It stayed at three screens until he added a fourth in 1994. Another big change came in 2013 when with the need to convert to digital projection looming, Peter built a 11-room motel facing the drive-in. I wrote about it back then when it was planned, Seven Days had an article about its unveiling. “The Starlight Inn will support the drive-in, and the two will play into each other,” Peter said. “So I think our odds of staying open now are better than ever in the face of this digital Armageddon.” WPTZ, Burlington’s News Leader, offered a slide show of how the Starlight looked.

That motel must have done the trick, because the Sunset converted all four screens to digital the next year. “It’s a labor of love,” Peter told the Lake Champlain Weekly (pdf) years earlier. “It’s not for the profit. As I said, it’s like a member of the family now.”

The YouTube video of the day comes from Stuck In Vermont, a whimsical-looking series from Seven Days.

With four screens on this Sunday night, I was surprised to find that I’d already seen all of the early movies. I picked American Assassin for a second viewing as a flick that wasn’t bad enough to avoid.

Miles Today / Total: 121 / 31331 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: American Assassin / 169

Nearby Restaurant: The Guilty Plate Diner is right across Porters Point Road from the Sunset, although I probably would have driven across town for its food. I love breakfast all day, especially when I can get a great eggs benedict like theirs for lunch.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Well of course I had to stay at the Starlight Inn on the Sunset grounds. I could see some of the screens from my room, which was immaculate and had all the modern conveniences. (After all, this hotel isn’t very old.) There was no breakfast included, but that’s a quibble since the best restaurant in town is literally across the street.

Only in Colchester: In nearby Burlington, there’s a plaque marking the first scoop shop of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. It was located in an old gas station on the corner of St. Paul and College Street and opened in May 1978.  The location is now a parking lot and the plaque is embedded in the sidewalk in front.

Next stop: Fairlee Motel & Drive-in Theater, Fairlee VT.

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