Sunrise Drive-In

750 W. Sunrise Highway,
Valley Stream, NY 11581

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Sunrise Drive-In

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This was one of Long Island’s most popular drive in theaters because it was right over the city line. Cars would line up for miles to see first run double and sometimes triple features.

Opened on August 10, 1938 with Jimmy Durante in “Start Cheering”. The Sunrise Drive-In later had a huge curved screen and the side that faced the street was covered in gaudy neon. It also had a big play park and concession stand. By 1955 it was being operated by Michael Redstone. The Sunrise Drive-In was closed and torn down in 1979, when Redstone built the Sunrise multiplex.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 61 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm

These little guys spent a fortune buying TV ads for their films just to get theatres to book them. The theatres that failed to pay or paid late hurt them more than the competition from major studios. These exploitation titles kept many small theatres open during the dull months by filling empty seats, albeit with some really bad films. The ad campaigns cost more than the movies themselves so not paying them made their cash flow impossible to maintain. These deadbeat theatres were the same who complained about product shortages.

We sold out a 900 seat theatre in Miami Shores with “Beyond The Door” on opening weekend that had not been sold out since the fifties. A lady passed out during the film and had to be taken away by ambulance. That unplanned event made the film even more popular on the weekdays. By week two the place was empty.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Robert R,Loved your Double feature “TRUE GRIT” and “THE LAWYER"another crazy Double feature.Great Stories to read guys.thanks for putting them on.

RichD on March 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Although I grew up not far from Valley Stream, we didn’t do the drive-in much…but how I remember the few times we did!
“King Kong” (the 1976 version); a double bill of “Grizzly” and “Day of the Animals”, and best of all, a double-bill of “Star Wars” (the 1977 original, which was still in its original release at this time) and the 1953 version of “War of the Worlds”! I never did find out how they came up with that combo, but who cares! Seeing the Martian War Machines on that big, big screen was awesome!
(And, yes, I do have plenty of fond memories of the Tuesday and Thursday flea markets, too!)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 6, 2011 at 7:37 am

Back to the nominal topic, found these photos/images on a Facebook group called “I grew up in Valley Stream 1970-2000” and purloined them for use on this site. Some of these images may have already been submitted here, but I don’t believe any of those links are still working, so here they are anew:

Daytime shot

‘Gaudy Neon’ at night

1950’s mailer?

Opening Ad

That last image of the opening day ad is most likely the same one from the Long Island Press that Warren posted back on November 14, 2007. I find that little mailer from the 1950’s to be interesting. I suppose with the competition from television, the folks at Sunrise took their advertising campaign door to door via the USPS. I wonder if the Sunrise ever really ran a true VistaVision presentation?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 6, 2011 at 7:41 am

Introductory comments up top might be updated to reflect exact opening date of August 10, 1938, and correct time of closure and demolition to 1979, sometime after the run of “The Exorcist” re-release as detailed above by KingBiscuits on January 16, 2010.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 6, 2011 at 3:54 pm

enjoyed some of the great stories,especially the one about car-speakers.

buick8 on June 5, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I remember seeing “Night of the living Dead” there. Had to be 1969. Also “Rocky”, “Let’s scare Jessica to death”, The Planet of the Apes. and “The new Centurions”. I believe my brother may have hidden in the trunk one time to reduce costs. Had a nice Playground there for us kiddies. That theater was featured in the Movie “The Lords of Flatbush” and I would not be surprised if it was actually shown there as well. Then they had the Flea Market there also.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Pic of the dive-in site today in photos.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Pic of the first attraction “Start Cheering” posted in photos. This picture had opened at the Rialto in Times Square on March 16, 1938. The NY Times said “Unsinkably buoyed by the comical intensity of Jimmy Durante, "Start Cheering,” at the Rialto, turns out to be one of the funniest of the year’s admittedly minor productions…

DavidZornig on May 17, 2017 at 5:44 am

August 16, 1938 photo added with caption.

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