It’s Day 305 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. On this rainy Wednesday, I was glad to have a short drive, just a half hour from the Jericho Drive-in in Glenmont NY to the Greenville Drive-In Outdoor Cinema, in Greenville NY of course.
The Greenville used to have its history posted on an About Us page on its web site. Fortunately, the Internet Archive made a copy in 2014 so I can share some of its highlights with you.
In April 1959, Peter Carelas began construction on the Greenville Drive-in. New York Drive-Ins says its opening night was two months later on June 18. The drive-in was originally designed to hold 400 cars, although the International Motion Picture Almanac later listed its capacity as 550. The screen was 85 feet wide.
The Greenville’s history appears to have been uneventful until it was put up for sale in 1988. That’s when local business owner Mark Wilcox and 10 others, eventually forming “The Greenville Eleven, Inc.” jointly purchased the drive-in to save it from land development. Wilcox operated and managed the Greenville through the 2006 season. During that time, he switched from in-car speakers to FM sound. Even now, he’s still listed as the CEO of the corporation.
“2007 was a year of sadness,” as the Greenville closed. In 2009, Don Brown and Patricia Creigh reopened it for the season, but plagued by rainy weather, the drive-in was only open a few weekends. The Greenville was again closed for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
In 2012, Jim Gatehouse and family took over, spruced up the facility and reopened, but they couldn’t get past the digital projection hurdle and closed the Greenville again for the 2014 season.
Enter the current owners, Leigh Van Swall and Dwight Grimm. They ran a modest but successful Kickstarter campaign, highlighted by the embedded video above, in early 2015. (It noted, “We are one of the few all-grass drive-ins in existence so the fifteen acres requires extensive mowing and gravel access roads to keep patrons from becoming mired.”) Grimm later told Catskill Eats, “We’re trying not to be so much a straight-up movie theater, but more of an event venue with movie-showing capabilities.”
The Greenville opened a beer garden in 2016, and held a typewriter festival later that year. They finished their 2017 season in mid-October and promised to be back in May 2018. Sounds like fun!
Miles Today / Total: 22 / 34429 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 185
Nearby Restaurant: Was Lane’s Cafe, up Highway 32 from the drive-in, the diner where the Greenville Eleven organized over breakfast? The menu showed plenty of breakfast choices, but I arrived at lunch. I had the hot open-faced turkey sandwich with gravy and cranberry sauce. Mashed potatoes make a better choice than the fries they provided, but for a good turkey sandwich, I’m willing to overlook that.
Where I Virtually Stayed: The Greenville Arms 1889 Inn is possibly the best place to stay in Greenville. It’s the kind of vintage bed and breakfast you’d find on a postcard. My comfortable little room included a mini-fridge. Breakfast included grits, a difficult dish to find in chain hotel buffets. And as a bonus, the proprietors make gourmet chocolates. That’s a great reason to stay here!
Only in Greenville: According to Roadside America, just south of Greenville in the town of East Durham, on the property of Blackthorne Resort, there is a 17-foot-tall steampunk robot. It was built by Thomas Willeford for the 2014 Steampunk World’s Fair, and is displayed in an open-air shed-like building.
Next stop: Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre, Coxsackie NY.