Dec. 24: Hyde Park Drive In Theatre, Hyde Park NY

It’s Day 358 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took only about an hour to drive from the Fair Oaks Drive-In Theatre north of Middletown NY to the Hyde Park Drive In Theatre in Hyde Park NY.

This drive-in opened as the Hyde Park Auto Vision Theatre on July 28, 1950, owned by Sidney Cohen and his brother-in-law Phil Eisenberg. It’s stayed in the Cohen family ever since.

(Looks like that pair stayed busy. When Eisenberg and Cohen bought the Canaan CT Drive-In in 1952, Billboard magazine said the pair owned theaters in Lakeville and Millerton CT, and Pine Plains, Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Hyde Park NY.)

The International Motion Picture Almanac drive-in lists listed the drive-in as the Hyde Park Auto Vision” through the 1966 edition, then switched to just Hyde Park. By 1978, they listed Cohen as the sole owner.

The Poughkeepsie Journal, in a 2011 retrospective, recalled the time the drive-in was the high bidder for a lucrative movie. “In 1977, we won county rights to show ‘Star Wars’ and it became one our biggest successes,” Fred Cohen said. “We ran it for 32 weeks and it grossed as much the first week it showed than we made our entire first year in business.”

The next time the Hyde Park was in the news was when community groups came together to save it. The growing prosperity of the area caused property taxes to rise to unsustainable levels for the drive-in, and Wal-Mart was interested in buying the land. Scenic Hudson, a Poughkeepsie-based environmental group, bought the property and leased it back to the Cohen family. “Scenic Hudson bought the land because they didn’t want a Wal-Mart going in right smack across from the Roosevelt home,” manager Andy Cohen told The New York Times in 2008.

In July 2011, Scenic Hudson transferred ownership of the drive-in’s land to the National Park Service, which runs the FDR National Historic Site. At the time, the Park Service planned to use part of the land to build a larger trailhead for Roosevelt Farm Lane. As the Red Hook Observer pointed out in 2014, the Hyde Park is the only drive-in on land owned by the National Park Service.

As of an October 2014 BBC article, owner Barry Horowitz (Sidney Cohen’s son-in-law) had just completed converting to digital projection. Horowitz told them that patrons like the drive in because they “can sit outside their car, they can smoke, they can have a beer, just [in] the open air. People like to get outside, just like going to a park.”

The Hyde Park closed in mid-September this year. I’m glad it’s in such safe hands.

Miles Today / Total: 48 / 39663 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 200

Nearby Restaurant: On a snowy day with no drive-in to watch, I again went looking for a diner with comfort food, and that’s why I chose the Eveready Diner for lunch. My chicken pot pie was so much better than the frozen versions I baked decades ago, with peas and carrots that weren’t mushy and serious chunks of chicken. Add mashed potatoes, a salad, and a warm roll, and I was in my happy place.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The classic Roosevelt Inn was closed for the season, so the Hyde Park Quality Inn was my second choice. There were cookies and coffee waiting at check-in. My king bed room had all the modern amenities. Breakfast had scrambled eggs, sausage, and a fresh waffle. This place worked out.

Only in Hyde Park: Literally across the street from the drive-in is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. It’s got everything you’d expect from a presidential library plus tours of FDR’s home and great views of the Hudson River. Admission tickets are good for two days, and many TripAdvisor reviewers report enough areas of interest to fill that time and more.

Next stop: Southington Drive-In, Plantsville CT.