Oct. 23: Sunset Drive In, Waterford PA

Sunset Drive-In marquee and back of screen

Photo from the Sunset Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 296 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It was time to sweep through some of the drive-ins along the New York / Pennsylvania border, so I started by driving 2½ hours from one Sunset to another – from the Sunset Drive-In in Middleport NY to the Sunset Drive In just southeast of Waterford PA.

The Sunset opened on June 10, 1948. The first movie shown was The Westerner starring Gary Cooper. The Theatre Catalog list of drive-ins that year named the owners as Ray Woodward, E. Wilson, and Alden Phelps. Those three names shifted around in the ownership records for the next couple of decades. In 1958, the Huntingdon PA Daily News said that Phelps was the owner. The International Motion Picture Almanacs for 1955-66 listed Woodward.

The drive-in showed X-rated movies for a while in the 1970s into the early 1980s, as evidenced by advertisements in the Titusville Herald. Who knows who owned it then?

The modern era began in 1988 when Dennis and Margaret Koper bought the Sunset. Dennis told WJET, Erie’s News Leader, “The wife liked to go to the movies, so I bought her a movie theater!”

A story at GoErie.com says Dennis began working at the Sunset in 1968 as an electronics technician. That should mean that he’s comfortable with the digital projection system he installed before the 2013 season. The couple has had 30 years of owning this humble drive-in, and I hope they continue with it as long as they want. For now, it’s closed for the season.

I wish I could have embedded a couple of minutes of nice video here, but you’ll have to go to YourErie.com to watch. Then you can watch a half-minute of video recorded earlier at YourErie. Then you can check out some nice photos at GoErie.com.

Miles Today / Total: 138 / 33661 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 182

Nearby Restaurant: It had been a long time since I’d gone for Chinese, and I was happy to find Maggie’s Chinese Inn in Waterford. It’s not a buffet, so everything’s prepared fresh. The egg drop soup, my personal measuring stick for Chinese restaurants, was great, and I find shrimp fried rice to be a certain kind of comfort food.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The closest hotels to the Sunset are past Waterford to where I-90 scrapes past Erie. And one of those, less than 10 miles from the drive-in, is another Hampton Inn. It’s a place where I know what to expect. Coffee all the time in the lobby. A comfortable room with all the modern amenities. The great Hampton breakfast. Yes, I’m spoiled that way.

Only in Waterford: According to Wikipedia, Waterford contains a statue of George Washington wearing the uniform of an officer in the Virginia Militia. In December 1753, at age 21, Washington was asked by Governor Dinwiddie to carry a British ultimatum to the French on the Ohio frontier. Washington delivered the message at Fort Le Boeuf in present-day Waterford. The message went unheeded because he delivered it to the wrong person.

Next stop: Family Drive In Theatre, Kane PA.

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