Hamptons Drive-In: Nostalgia in Your Backyard

Hamptons Drive-In
Credit: Hamptons Drive-In

I was five years old when I last saw a movie at a drive-in on Long Island—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, back in 1989—starring Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. I remember sitting in the back seat of my parents’ station wagon and watching as Connery and Ford took down Nazis while searching for the Holy Grail. Sadly, drive-in movie theaters are a thing of the past, the last one on Long Island came down in 1998, and the lot was paved over and turned into a wholesale club.

Zac Allentuck, founder and director of Hamptons Drive-In (along with his wife, Cindy), brings a little bit of that drive-in magic back to movie fans by offering outdoor, drive-in style exhibition to the East End. Started in 2007, the company uses a variety of screens to showcase films. While researching the company, I must admit, I got excited seeing that Hamptons Drive-In will be presenting Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, at the East Hampton Food Pantry on August 21. The week before, they’ll be presenting Tim Burton’s Batman, arguably one of the greatest superhero movies ever produced, also at the East Hampton Food Pantry.

“We have four different screen sizes available, three of which are inflatable,” Allentuck said. The screens vary in size from 10 feet wide to over two stories tall. “They’re all for outdoor use and presentation, as well.”

I was curious how Allentuck and his company translates the magic of watching a film in a drive-in to a modern audience. Kids who are glued to their iPhones surely have no concept of how awesome the drive-in experience is. “What we’re trying to do is find a permanent location where we can exhibit films,” Allentuck said. “We’re doing a lot of our fundraising and a lot of our screenings out on lawns. Like, for instance, we showed The Sound of Music at the Mulford Farm. When we do a “drive-in,” it’s typically a parking lot location and we broadcast via FM frequency to the cars.”

“How do we get the people involved in the drive-in experience? Well, it’s really up to the people,” Allentuck said. “The folks who are promoting the event typically take the responsibility to let people know the format of the event, as well as what’s being screened. We’d like to find a home, whether it’s an old parking lot, showing movies on a Monday through Thursday basis throughout the season. That’s our goal.”

I admitted my excitement over the possibility of seeing Superman on the big screen to Allentuck and he laughed, saying, “We’re really excited this year, even though we have nothing to do with the film selection, we’re really just the ones who bring in the screen, set up the popcorn and the client typically selects the film,” Allentuck said. “We help with promotion and help solicit the businesses who wish to sponsor the event. Showing movies like E.T. at Herrick Park is a real honor, though. There’s been nothing there, other than the Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game, until now. It’s a major coup for us and we’re excited to be there.”

“We typically wrap things up around Halloween,” Allentuck said, talking about the typical Hamptons Drive-In season. “At a certain point, it gets too cold to stay outside, but we can typically get an image on the screen 20 minutes or so after sundown. Like, right now, we get dark around eight-ish, so, as it gets darker, we can start earlier, but of course, it’s colder.”

I was curious what the strangest movie Hamptons Drive-In ever exhibited was. I envisioned some East End VIP screening Nosferatu or The Wicker Man for himself in his backyard. The answer wasn’t as creepy. “The Big Lebowski,” Allentuck said. “That’s one of our favorites. We’ve screened Across The Universe, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, mostly mainstream stuff for the crowds. I never get people saying that they had a bad time. At the end of each screening, folks are asking when we can schedule another screening, which, of course, makes us feel good, you know?”


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