The Bridgton opened as a single-screen drive-in in 1957. A reference book from 1963 lists the owner as “Daytz-Walter Esley”, which I’m guessing was a partnership since “Daytz Theatre Ent.” owned the Auburn in Danville ME. John Tevanian, who built the Pride’s Corner Drive-In in Westbrook in 1953, bought the Bridgton in 1971. He passed away just this past July at the age of 91.
Tevanian’s son, also named John Tevanian, took over in 1996 according to a story in The Bridgton News. He added a second screen in 2000. From the look of the surrounding land, he must have carved out a chunk of forest to make the second viewing area.
With digital conversion looming in 2013, Tevanian invested $350,000 to triple the size of his concession building and projection booth to be ready for the upgrade. He told the News, “I decided going into this that I was going to be either all in or all out. Well, I’m all in.”
In a 2016 article on KeepMeCurrent.com, Tevanian was still there, reminiscing on the occasion of the Bridgton’s 60th season. He worked for his father as a kid in the 1970s, when the drive-in was a teenage hangout that played horror movies. When Tevanian left for college in 1986, he said, “the business was collapsing.”
After returning from college, Tevanian saw the clientele shift to families as more kid-friendly movies came around. Now the nostalgia factor brings in the parents while the movies appeal to the kids.
The best video of the day I could find is from WMTW (Portland ME’s News Leader) on YouTube, showing a very snowy Bridgton Twin that had to delay the start of the 2017 season as a result.
At this time of year, the drive-in is only open Fridays and Saturdays, leaving me to relax for a quiet Monday evening.
Miles Today / Total: 100 / 30915 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 166
Nearby Restaurant: When the drive-in in town is closed, the next best thing is a retro diner such as Ricky’s Diner. First, breakfast is served all day, so I’m already happy. There’s a poster of a drive-in marquee on the wall, so that’s another plus. There’s a working jukebox, a checkerboard tile floor, and plenty (though not all) of furniture with red vinyl. I don’t know whether blueberry pancakes are a retro thing, but I sure enjoy them.
Where I Virtually Stayed: With the whole evening to myself, I had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the gentle breeze at Grady’s West Shore Motel. As promised, this is a motel on the west shore of Highland Lake, complete with a sandy beach and hammock. Maybe there wasn’t a fridge in my room, but there were smores by the evening campfire. For a quiet evening, that’s a good tradeoff.
Only in Bridgton: According to Wikipedia, when the Portland and Ogdensburg Railway bypassed Bridgton, the town built the 2-foot-gauge Bridgton and Saco River Railroad link to the national rail network in 1883. After decades of mainly freight service, it became a tourist attraction as the last 2-foot-gauge railroad offering passenger service in the late 1930s. The railroad ceased operations in October 1941, and its rails were converted to scrap metal to fight World War II.
Next stop: Prides Corner Drive-In, Westbrook ME.