Sept. 19: Prides Corner Drive-In, Westbrook ME

It’s Day 262 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. From a far suburb of Portland to a near suburb of Portland, it was just 45 minutes’ drive from the Bridgton Twin Drive-In, in Bridgton ME of course, to Prides Corner Drive-In in Westbrook.

John Tevanian, who bought the Bridgton in 1971, built the Pride’s Corner in 1952, opening it in May 1953. (The grand opening newspaper ad had an apostrophe, but the marquee doesn’t and most subsequent references don’t have it either.) Tevanian was a teacher for 35 years with the Portland school system and according to his obituary, operated the drive-in as a great summer job. He passed away just this past July at the age of 91.

There must have been ups and downs during John’s half-century-plus at the Prides Corner, but I can’t find anything about them. Instead, the story picks up after the 2015 season, when the drive-in still didn’t have a digital projector. In 2016, it just didn’t open.

In the “Summerguide” 2016 issue of Portland Monthly, the author begins his article, “When I meet up with the owner of Pride’s Corner Drive-in, 47-year-old Andrew Tevanian, he’s dressed as a World War II medic.” Andrew is one of John’s sons, and he told the Monthly about his failed GoFundMe campaign and plans to start an IndieGoGo to raise the money for the equipment. The author wrote, “I ask Andrew if he knows when, if at all, he will open the drive-in this year. He shrugs his shoulders.”

That was presumably followed by a June 12, 2016 article in the Portland Press Herald in which John’s wife Thelma Tevanian said the business was going through a “family restructuring” and would reopen eventually. She also said that she and her husband were telling Prides Corner fans to ignore any fundraisers.

The Press Herald wrote that John and Thelma were behind the May 28, 2016 post on the drive-in’s Facebook page. It said in part, “We are in the process of setting a path for the future. None of our decisions are dependent on fundraising or solicitations of any kind. This is in direct opposition to our fundamental beliefs and no one has the ability to act on our behalf.”

Then there was big news just a few months ago. The Forecaster of Falmouth ME wrote in July 2017, “Jeff Tevanian, the drive-in manager and son of owners John and Thelma Tevanian, said the theater should be open by Aug. 4, possibly as early as July 28. … (Jeff) grew up in the business, but said this will be the first time he operates a drive-in by himself. He helped manage it for a few years in the early 2000s, but his brother Andrew had been the manager until 2015.” The soft opening was Aug. 18, and the drive-in hopes for a full grand opening next spring.

For the YouTube video of the day, I couldn’t help choosing one from prolific poster Andrew Tevanian. This one appears to be a promo from 2015.

Perhaps making up for lost time, the Prides Corner is still showing movies on Fridays through Sundays. But not Tuesdays, leaving me with another weeknight away from the drive-in.

Miles Today / Total: 30 / 30945 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 166

Nearby Restaurant: For a bit of adventure, I had dinner at Phoever Maine, a Vietnamese restaurant. Spring roll appetizers set up the Pho Chin beef noodle bowl, and it all went well with beer from Portland’s Allagash Brewing Company.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Westbrook borders Portland, so the Super 8 in Westbrook is across Riverside Street from the Ramada Plaza in Portland, and the Ramada is closer to the drive-in, so that’s where I went. My room had neither a fridge nor a microwave, but at least there was wifi. There was an on-site restaurant for breakfast, which was really nice, just not included.

Only in Westbrook Portland: Roadside America reports that according to its founder and curator, the International Cryptozoology Museum is the only one of its kind in the world. Cryptozoology is the study of unknown or mysterious animals, including monsters. The capper is an eight-foot-tall Bigfoot, built by a Wisconsin taxidermist.

Next stop: The Saco Drive In, Saco ME.

Sept. 15: Neptune Drive-In, Shediac NB

It’s Day 258 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. After a week of driving four hours or more every day, I was very happy to spend just over an hour to get from Sussex, New Brunswick to the Neptune Drive-In in Shediac NB.

According to an article in the Times & Transcript, copied into notes on a 2008 petition at, then-owner Gilles LeBlanc’s father opened the Neptune in 1964. Cinema Treasures says the drive-in closed in 1985 but reopened in 1990. Then around 2006 it closed again, as Gilles put the place up for sale. That petition was delivered to the mayor of Shediac, who had earlier said the town could not afford the asking price of over $1 million.

(By the way, who was Gilles’s father, the founder of the Neptune? In a 2016 obituary, one Gilles LeBlanc, son of Edgar LeBlanc, passed away in Shediac at the age of 60. A 2005 New Brunswick news release said that “Shediac-area resident” Gilles A. LeBlanc pleaded guilty to a violation of the Clean Water Act related to “property owned by his father, Azor LeBlanc.” Then there was the Gilles LeBlanc, former Director of Material Resources for Villa Providence Shediac and son of Ronald LeBlanc, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 53. Was the Neptune’s Gilles one of these? I just don’t know.)

In 2010, “a local business person bought the property and approached (Jeff) Coates with a suggestion to lease the drive-in business,” according to a story in The Globe and Mail. Coates joined with Robert Farquharson to lease the Neptune. In the 2012-13 offseason, they switched to digital projection.

This video of the day, a 2013 report from Global News, casts doubt on the date the Neptune opened, but it’s also a nice interview with Coates and a peek at the freshly converted projection room. For another, wobblier, look at what it was like to visit the drive-in in 2014, check out YouTube.

On my final night in Canada this year, I got a chance to see a new release, American Assassin. I’m always happy to find an active drive-in during the off-season, and doubly glad to watch something fresh.

Miles Today / Total: 69 / 30477 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: American Assassin / 164

Nearby Restaurant: So I’m at the beach, and I want something historic yet inexpensive. The solution was Chez Léo‘s fried clams. It’s only takeout, and the fries aren’t nearly as wonderful, but those fresh, tasty clams can’t be matched just anywhere.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I couldn’t find a chain hotel in Shediac itself, which left me open to a reasonably priced night at the Hôtel Shediac. It’s in the middle of town but looks like it was built recently. My “executive floor” king bed room had the full set of modern amenities including a Keurig. With the pancake machine, breakfast was like a Holiday Inn Express. It’s all good.

Only in Shediac: Remember Animaland, concrete sculptor Winston Bronnum’s park from yesterday? Bronnum also built the most remarkable item in Shediac, the world’s largest lobster. The town calls itself the “Lobster Capital of the World,” so naturally it needed the lifelike 35-foot-long sculpture to remind visitors.

Next stop: Bangor Drive-In, Bangor ME.

Sept. 14: Sussex Drive In, Sussex NB

Lit drive-in at night with cars, the screen, and the concession stand

Photo from the Sussex Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 257 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. Another long drive (almost six hours) through the Canadian woods brought me from Sydney, near the eastern tip of Nova Scotia, to the Sussex Drive In in Sussex, New Brunswick.

A blog post by Open Air Cinema in 2009 gives us a few hints about the origin of the Sussex. It was founded by Gerald Alexander and his family in 1967, and they had kept the single-screen drive-in in operation ever since. Saint John NB businessmen Tom Boudreau, Paul Galloway and Randy Defazio bought the place in 2008 and separately purchased the adjacent campground.

“And like every year, the canteen will carry its complete menu,” Open Air Cinema wrote, “including typical movie favourites such as popcorn and nachos, as well as chicken wings, hamburgers, hotdogs, pogos, clams and chips, fries and onion rings.” Clams and chips? That’s a thing around here.

In 2012, the Sussex made the switch to digital projection, which led to a CBC News article. Manager Cindy MacDonald said, “If we wanted to keep the drive-in open, we didn’t have much choice but to do the upgrade because those big, old movie reels are going to be a thing of the past very soon.”

This year, the Telegraph-Journal (subscription required) wrote about the Sussex for its opening weekend. “It’s never been shut down in the over 50 years it has been in operation. It’s a part of the Sussex community, and it has been for years,” said Boudreau, described simply as “owner” in the article.

Boudreau said the drive-in reached its capacity of “around 450″ twice in 2016, turning away over a hundred cars. “Those were two great weekends last year, and we’re hoping to have weekends like that this year. On average we see from 70 to 80.”

For me, the most important update was on the Sussex Facebook page last week. “That’s a wrap folks! Thanks again to all our loyal customers for another great season! Have a great fall and winter, we will see you again in 2018!”

Miles Today / Total: 346 / 30408 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 163

Nearby Restaurant: A good old retro-feel diner is a decent choice as a substitute when the drive-in is closed for the season. In Sussex, that means JJ’s Diner. I was expecting burgers to go with the white-black checkerboard floor and the red vinyl furniture, but the hot turkey sandwich was even better. Topped with a banana split supreme for dessert, and I was set for the night.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The only thing better than a nice, safe chain motel is a really great mom and pop place like the Pinecone Motel. The rooms are clean and full of all the modern amenities. The best part is breakfast, featuring homemade blueberry waffles along with the continental breakfast regulars. All at less than half the price I paid the night before.

Only in Sussex: Just east of the Pinecone Motel is / was Animaland, founded in the 1960s by concrete sculptor Winston Bronnum. He wanted to build the “Disneyland of the north” along what was then the main highway into town. It was closed in the mid-1990s, but was reborn as a campground this year. Blowhard the bony horse still stands out front to welcome visitors.

Next stop: Neptune Drive-In, Shediac NB.