Sept. 18: Bridgton Twin Drive-In, Bridgton ME

It’s Day 261 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took almost two hours to drive from the Skowhegan Drive-In, in Skowhegan ME of course, to the Bridgton Twin Drive-In, in Bridgton ME of course.

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, 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.

Sept. 17: Skowhegan Drive-In, Skowhegan ME

It’s Day 260 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It only took an hour to drive from Bangor to the Skowhegan Drive-In in Skowhegan ME.

The Skowhegan was built by Lockwood & Gordon Co. of Boston in 1954, according to an article in the Press Herald. At some point, ownership passed to Doug Corson, who was “involved with the drive-in since graduating from Skowhegan High School in 1956.”

In 2012, Corson sold the Skowhegan to Donald C. Brown Jr., who had run the Diamond State Drive-in in Felton DE before its lease ran out. The Press Herald article said the purchase price “took into consideration … the upgrades that were necessary, including the upcoming digital conversion.”

Less than two years later, Brown launched a FundRazr campaign to pay for digital projection equipment. “The quick conversion to digital by Hollywood movie producers took him by surprise,” wrote ““The model the drive-in operates on isn’t viable anymore,” Brown said. “It’s not just the digital projection system itself. It’s the maintenance that goes along with it. … that’s the uncertainty that the Skowhegan faces.”

Somehow the drive-in endured and found its new projectors. Dated February 2017, the last post on that FundRaze page read, “We’d like to thank all of the patrons of the Skowhegan Drive-In who helped us go digital. We didn’t get the full amount, but at least the amount we raised helped with the installation costs.”

It’s also got a nicely restored sign, as I wrote about last year. The town of Skowhegan and the state offered facade grants to small businesses outside of downtown. Brown got a little over $8,000, and now the neon-lit Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre sign is back.

For the video of the day, I could have embedded a short visit to the Skowhegan, but when would I get another opportunity to use a full drive-in tour conducted by small stuffed animals?

Miles Today / Total: 53 / 30815 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: It / 166

Nearby Restaurant: One of the great things about a short drive is that I arrive in time for breakfast. Combine that with a buffet, and you’ve found the place I want to visit, in this cast Ken’s Family Restaurant. All the bacon I could eat! Made-to-order omelettes! Biscuits and gravy! Donuts! Coffee! It’s a great way to get full enough to skip lunch and dinner.

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are a few cute little motels in Skowhegan; the one I chose is The Towne Motel. It’s no chain hotel, but my room had the full set of modern amenities including wifi. Unlike a lot of small motels, the modest price included a modest continental breakfast. It got me going!

Only in Skowhegan: Skowhegan has the world’s tallest Indian statue, 62 feet tall with a 20-foot base. The engraved wooden sign at the statue’s base reads: “Dedicated to the Maine Indians, the first people to use these lands in peaceful ways.” The indigenous Abenaki people named the area Skowhegan, meaning “watching place (for fish).”

Next stop: Bridgton Twin Drive-In, Bridgton ME.

Sept. 16: Bangor Drive-In, Hermon ME

It’s Day 259 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I ended the Canadian portion of the trek this day, driving four hours from the Neptune Drive-In in Shediac New Brunswick to the Bangor Drive-In, built in Bangor but thanks to shifting boundaries, now just across the border in the town of Hermon ME.

Thanks to Steve Ginn’s wonderful YouTube history of the Bangor, I found almost all the details of the drive-in all in one place. The drive-in opened in June 1950 with a large single screen. Through the 1970s, it showed mostly mainstream movies with the occasional stag film night mixed in.

A storm blew down the original screen on Jan. 8, 1978. It was replaced that year by the two screens that survive today.

AM Radio sound was added before the 1985 season, which is odd because the Bangor abruptly closed on July 24, 1985. By noon on the 25th, every speaker had been removed. The eight-screen Bangor Mall Cinemas, owned by the same company as the drive-in, opened on the 26th.

The drive-in sat for almost 30 years, its grounds falling into disrepair but those recently built aluminum and steel screens holding up just fine. In 2015, Cinema Bangor LLC renovated and rebuilt the Bangor. The irony here is that the LLC also owned that same Bangor Mall Cinema. The company is fronted by partner Carol Epstein, whose father opened the drive-in in 1950.

The Bangor Daily News related Epstein’s excitement about the project. “[The drive-in] was a big piece of my childhood and I think for a lot of people it was a big piece of their childhood,” she said. Now everything is modern, including the digital projection of course, and the drive-in charges by the carload, which I prefer for some reason.

A special preview night was the occasion for the embedded YouTube video of the day. A radio morning crew visited, and I only hope they didn’t have to get up at 5 am or whatever the next day to work their shift.

How popular is the Stephen King movie It? (Well, his house is in Bangor.) On screen one, the Bangor is showing It followed by Annabelle: Creation. On screen two, the Bangor is showing It followed by The Hitman’s Bodyguard. With a choice like that, I watched It.

Miles Today / Total: 285 / 30762 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: It / 165

Nearby Restaurant: I’m glad I made it here in time for a late lunch at Friars’ Bakehouse. Run by the Franciscan Brothers of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, they offer seemingly simple dishes that taste better than one would expect. My chicken pot pie was amazing, and their signature bread was worth buying extra to save for later.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Comfort Inn in Bangor had everything I needed for my return to the USA. There were cheese, crackers, and cookies available as evening snacks. My room had a fridge and microwave; it never hurts to ask. And in the morning, the solid Comfort breakfast of waffles, meat, eggs and the continental regulars had me ready for a new day.

Only in Hermon Bangor: At Pickering Square, a pedestrian circle downtown, if you stand in the center and clap your hands, you’ll hear the echo as a squeak. The phenomenon has been reported by several sources, but no one knows exactly why it happens. If you want to try it, don’t go when it’s snowy (it doesn’t work then) but go soon; the city wants to modify the parking garage at one end and hopes it won’t change the acoustics.

Next stop: Skowhegan Drive-In, Skowhegan ME.