Sunrise Drive-In

750 W. Sunrise Highway,
Valley Stream, NY 11581

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Sunrise Drive-In

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.

It was the first drive-in theatre to open in New York State, opening 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. By 1957 it was operated by Liggett-Florin Booking Service. The Sunrise Drive-In was closed and torn down in 1978, when Redstone built the 6-screen Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas on the site.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 64 comments)

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.

edgeydave1 on August 7, 2017 at 7:18 am

Many of the popular outdoor (and beat up old indoor) theaters got together in the late 50’s and formed their own distribution company called “Crown International” I watched as many of those trashy old films that I could. I loved those ‘B" movies and the cheaper the better! Such as; “The Baby Sitter”,“The Fantastic Plastic Machine”, “Chain Gang Women”, A bunch of “Motorcycle flicks”, and “The Sister-In-Law” comes to mind. That company (Crown Int) got big for awhile and had a long list of cool “budget” movies that were star-less but entertaining to watch and then easily forgotten. The film content rating system was still new in 1968-to'70 and “R” meant naked breast and bare butt scenes, and “X” meant full frontal nudity. “Triple XXX” was rare and not generally seen at drive ins, but yes! I did get to see a couple XXX fils like “Sweet Sweetback badassss song” I used to sneak in through one of the many fence holes in the rear of the Drive-In and sat on the ground with my back up against the fence. The fence was just 30 feet beyond the last row of cars,& in the dark. Most of the time we had a six-pack each of Rheingold beer, or a bottle of cheap wine like Boone’s Farm fruit flavors, or (ichhhhkkk) pints of Port wine. I ate hot dogs from the stand, drank beer, and partied 'til theater closing time (about 1:00am) on those hot summer nights along with all my Rosedale Queen’s friends.I look back and have fond memories thanks to the film company “Crown International!”

DavidZornig on January 22, 2019 at 5:08 pm

Just added another 8/16/38 photo front & back, which states that the Sunrise was “New York State’s first open air drive-in theater”. Something that should likely be added to the Overview.

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