Sunrise Drive-In

750 W. Sunrise Highway,
Valley Stream, NY 11581

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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 May 17, 2017 at 5:44 am

August 16, 1938 photo added with caption.

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…

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

Pic of the dive-in site today in photos.

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

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

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.

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?

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!)

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.

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.

formerprojectionist on March 4, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Exactly! You know it’s an interesting thing about Davison in that Ed Montero ran Film Ventures, the company that released Beyond the Door, but it was Davison who did the publicity and created the campaigns, yet he died broke and drinking was the main cause of death. I always believed that guys like him were always swimming in deep, dangerous waters to keep up, and I honestly think that when the whole theatrical venue dried up for independents, plus the internet screwing the coffin shut, he basically just gave up. Couldn’t keep his head above water anymore, and he no longer had a desire to, the landscape had changed so drastically…

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm

A lot of theatre operators behaved that way back in the seventies. They paid the majors but screwed the independent distributors that didn’t have another film they wanted coming up.

Sometimes even the majors didn’t see their share for six months. Since product came out during summer and Christmas, the boxoffice receipts from one season paid for the previous one. Withholding prints was one way to get paid something.

“Beyond The Door” was a BIG drive-in hit.

formerprojectionist on March 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm

A film publicist and filmmaker I knew named Donn Davison told me that Sumner was an “underhanded thief”, and he claimed he forced Sumner to pay rental fees for Beyond The Door ahead of sending Sumner the prints. He claimed that Sumner was notorious when it came to not paying up, and he had Sumner by the balls because the prints were reserved but Davison kept them locked up demanding cash up front. He didn’t release them until Sumner wired money to him the day before the film was to start. Davison said that “Sumner proves that crime pays”. Here’s a small part of the interview I did with Davison:

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 8, 2010 at 7:29 am

Did any of you get to meet Sumner back when he was a mere mortal?

Vittorio on February 8, 2010 at 5:21 am

The biggest attendance that I know of was for “The Dirty Dozen”. We put on an extra showing and it was held over for a week. When “Night of the Living Dead” was shown, folks returning from the snack bar walked like zombies and scared the hell out of those that were stoned. Good times.

formerprojectionist on February 7, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I saw a double bill of Dawn of the Dead and Meatcleaver Massacre there in 1979, most likely months before it went out of business. They were harsh about anyone under 17 years of age seeing Dawn of the Dead, and I remember hiding on the floor. The line was so long for getting into this film that they didn’t check the car. The Flea Market that ran out of the drive-in at the time was fantastic, one of the best around. It’s still there at the multiplex but it’s a poor shadow of what it had been!

Vittorio on February 7, 2010 at 7:00 am

Nice to see so many memories of the Sunrise Drive In. I worked there from 1967 until 1970. I started working during the day repairing the damage caused the previous evening; replacing speakers and heaters, re setting speaker poles, repairing the perimeter fencing, etc. All for $1.35 an hour! It paid the bills. The retired guys who cleaned the field burned the garbage in shopping carts they pushed around. They would find some money left in snack box trays and many other “interesting” items.

I switched to nights as a “field usher”. This position included directing cars, replacing defective speakers and heaters, and doing the charity collections. Yeah, that was me banging on your roof when you were occupied in the back seat.

Next was box office cashier, so you and I may have actually met! That was a great job as long as you didn’t mess up. Cars with one occupant were logged and the manager would visit the car in his golf cart later to see if any others had magically appeared. If so, out you go!

The folks that worked there were the roughest, toughest guys I’ve met till this day. Most worked heavy jobs on the Long Island Railroad during the day. To me, they were honest and kind and I’ll never forget them.

Mr. Scott. Lee Scott was the manager and ruled with an iron hand. The only time he smiled was when someone from Redstone Management paid a visit. He yelled, screamed, and was very arrogant. He DID run the place well and we did manage to have a good time working there.

If any of you folks have any questions, bring ‘em on or email me at

MarkieS on January 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I remember seeing a double bill here in 1965 of Billie with Patty Duke, and Hush…Hush,Sweet Charlotte (which scared the living hell out of my 6 year old ass!)with Bette Davis.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 18, 2009 at 7:51 am

In Sumner Redstone’s biography he mentions running the concession stand here for his dad who owned the drive-in. It was the beginning of his interest in movies and real estate.

Islandersb on May 18, 2009 at 7:41 am

I wish someone, ANYONE had a photo of the small amusement park that was directly under the screen at the Sunrise Drive-In at Valley Stream. There were about five or six small rides and rocking horses on a spring that parents got to use with their kids BEFORE the movie began. Once the movie was ready to start the amusement section was closed and everyone had to return to their cars or concession stand. How about it guys and gals from my era, anyone have a picture of this? Email me at if you do. John

KingBiscuits on January 16, 2009 at 7:24 pm

It looks like the drive-in’s final film was The Exorcist on the weekend of May 18th-20th, 1979, less than seven months before the Sunrise Multiplex opened for business.

Panzer65 on November 14, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Nice ad Warren.
I loved the sentence,
“$0.35 per person, your auto free"
I wonder how many people arrived in the trunk?