Sept. 27: Four Brothers Drive In, Amenia NY

It’s Day 270 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. My drive of almost four hours today was a bit longer than my typical day’s trip, but I was so excited that anybody would be showing movies on a Wednesday night at this time of year. So I headed almost due south from Bethel VT to the Four Brothers Drive In in Amenia NY.

A few decades ago, Amenia hosted what may have been the smallest permanent drive-in in the USA. From 1965 through 1983, no more than 54 (the Poughkeepsie Journal says 44) cars at a time squeezed in behind an auto body shop to watch a movie on a 32-foot-wide screen. (The world record holder for smallest drive-in, at 36 cars, remains the Jericho Drive-In in the Australian outback.)

Less than a mile down the road from that long-forgotten site stands Four Brothers Pizza Inn, the Amenia outpost of a small regional chain. Since that location opened in 1978, it’s possible that someone there remembered the old Amenia Drive-In. In 2013, owners Paul and John Stefanopoulos (sons of William and nephews of the other three founding brothers) decided to add a drive-in theater to their restaurant. It would be nostalgic, quirky, and state of the art. So that’s exactly what they did.

“People can relate to it no matter what their age,” Paul told Rural Intelligence. “We wanted to make it a place you could come and hang out with your family or on a date.”

This drive-in’s features and decor are amazing. There’s an art deco painting on the projection building wall, a classic four-letter square “LOVE” in lights, a water fountain and a fire pit (not in the same place). Patrons can order food from the restaurant and have it delivered to their car, where other employees will wash the windshield on request. There’s even a charging station for electric cars, the first at a drive-in theater but I’ll bet that’ll become a popular feature very soon.

There’s mini-golf, which is always a smart addition, and the Four Brothers also hosts weddings at the drive-in. On Throwback Thursdays, they show classic movies. I’m just a little sad that I missed one of those.

Rural Intelligence wrote that the original four brothers “often told their children that one of the first things they did when they came to America in the 1970s was go to the drive-in. They had a dream in the back of their minds that someday they would open their own.” I can’t imagine a better little drive-in than the Four Brothers, where the web site says “We are a boutique cinema in pursuit of magic.”

The YouTube video of the day is the first of a two-part series where the brothers explain what they wanted in a drive-in and what it looks like now. Be sure to click on Part 2. Also, if you get Food Network, check them out on the Drive-In Date Night episode of Farmhouse Rules; check for its next air date here.

For me, the best part of the Four Brothers experience is that it’s actually showing movies on the last Wednesday night of September. Sure, it’s a fun place, but the most important thing is the restaurant lets it stay functioning seven nights a week.

Miles Today / Total: 176 / 31635 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: It / 170

Nearby Restaurant: It would be impolite if I didn’t eat at the Four Brothers Restaurant, where pizza and other Italian food are the specialties. Along with big Greek salads, so that’s what I had in my intermittent quest to eat healthy. It had the feta cheese, cucumbers, olives and peppers mixed into a nice heap of lettuce.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Since there aren’t a lot of hotels near the Four Brothers, I picked a bed and breakfast that was close by, the Hilltop House. I reserved one of the rooms with a private bath, in consideration of my fellow guests, and was surprised how good the wifi was in this century-old mansion. The next morning, I ate an amazing breakfast on the screened porch and was ready to face another day.

Only in Amenia: Every year the town holds a Strawberry Festival in late spring. The Amenia Library, founded in 1938, co-sponsors the event, featuring a silent auction, baked goods, and a book sale. The 2017 festival took place on May 20 at the Four Brothers Drive-In.

Next stop: Mansfield Drive-in Theatre, Mansfield Center CT.