Southington Drive-In

935 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike,
Southington, CT 06479

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Southington Drive-In

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Your typical drive-in of the 1950’s, this actually opened May 18, 1955. Featured in-car heaters that made the drive-in loads of fun in the winter. The Southington Drive-In had a wonderful neon/flashing light roadside sign which, unfortunately, was downsized to about half its original design sometime in the late-1970’s. Later, a second screen was added, which wasn’t such a bad thing and actually made for better use of the property.

The theatre went dark in 2002, one of the last remaining drive-ins in CT. It was reopened on June 26, 2010, as a single screen.

Contributed by Bob Whitworth

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

bicyclereporter
bicyclereporter on September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

Good story in the Courant about “go digital or go dark” in relation to the Pleasant Valley Drive-In. This theater among others in the state are mentioned.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on September 24, 2013 at 10:44 am

I wonder why they did not move the other screen tower to front of the parking ramps were the original was located at one time.

spmahn
spmahn on December 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

I’m not sure if this should still be listed as “open”, since it really no longer operates as a theater in the traditional sense. It’s just an abandoned drive in that the town park and recs committee uses to project badly lit DVDs onto a dilapidated screen. It hasn’t operated as a theater since 2002.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on December 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm

It is true that it does not operate as a theatre in the traditional sense. However, during the summer they show movies once per week on the screen and charge admission. To me that still qualifies as open.

Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society
Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society on December 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm

‘Open,’ perhaps, but not as a traditional Drive-In, as I’ve posted earlier. I would classify this ‘town park’ as a ‘demolished’ Drive-In, as cannabalized is not an option. ‘nuff said. Dave Lounder

ChasSmith
ChasSmith on July 19, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Can someone who’s attended in the last couple of years provide some information on how they actually project movies? I hope “badly lit DVDs onto a dilapidated screen” is hyperbole, or at least an outdated description. How well or badly is the feature projected? How’s the sound? Are there concessions, and how are they?

TomMc11
TomMc11 on July 18, 2017 at 7:48 am

Looking at a current aerial view I would say it is some form of DVD projection. The booth used to project the movies is a tiny box about 50-60 feet in front of the screen. Looking at their Facebook page would seem to back this up. They ARE showing a movie every Saturday from the beginning of June until the end of September with a special Halloween event at the end of October, but every single movie is available on DVD. They did show Beauty and the Beast on June 10th, 4 days after it came out on DVD.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on July 18, 2017 at 8:19 am

I think it is BluRay

NeonMichael
NeonMichael on December 25, 2017 at 12:17 pm

The question of What Is A Drive-In Theater is a legitimate topic. I examined the issue last year here: http://carload.com/2016/09/how-to-define-the-drive-in-theater/ In short, I’d say that it’s any screen fixed in one place with recurring movies that anyone may drive in to view, so I include the Southington.

Two Billboard magazine articles suggest a long gestation period for the Southington. On March 25, 1950, it wrote that property owners were appealing the build approval given to James A. Holmes. “Hearings on the granting of the permit … were among the longest ever held.” Holmes estimated a capacity of 800 cars and construction cost of $100,000.

Those property owners must have found plenty of ways to delay the project, because the next Billboard article is from May 28, 1955. “Perakos Theater Associates opened its second Connecticut drive-in venture, the $200,000 Southington Drive-In Theater, Wednesday (18). Melvin Siegal, formerly with ABC Vending, is resident manager.” Every other source I’ve read says 1954 but no date, so I’d go with Billboard’s opening date of Wednesday, May 18, 1955.

The 1955-56 Theatre Catalog listed the Southington with a capacity of 950 cars and exec: Conn. Th. Ct. The Southington’s first appearance in the International Motion Picture Almanac was the 1956 edition, owned by P & H Amusement Corp. By the 1961 edition, it also listed its capacity of 1100!

The 1978 IMPA listed the drive-in under Plainsville, owner Perakos, which was how it stayed through the last list in 1988.

An August 2002 article in The New York Times wrote, “For Mr. (Sperie) Perakos, tracking the growth trend is important. Southington Drive-In is a family business, opened in 1954 by his father, and now owned by himself and his brothers, John and Peter Perakos Jr.” The article also quote the family talking about their dedication and how they were hooked on the business, and mentioned that “despite stormy weather, car after car pulled into the Southington Drive-In.”

Just a few weeks later, the Perakos family closed the drive-in for good. An article in the Republican-American, captured at the CinemaTour forum, wrote that as of July 2003, a For Sale sign was on the property, and “Sperie and Peter Perakos referred questions about the property to their nephew, Peter, a Hartford-based attorney.”

Another article in that same forum thread, from the Hartford Courant, said in August 2003, “Peter G. Perakos II, a lawyer whose family has run the theater for a half-century, says that, no matter what, the drive-in will reopen next spring. He said the theater closed this year because the Perakos family members who run the theater, now in their 80s, were unable to get help.” It did not reopen in 2004.

The New Haven Register had a nice article about the rebirth of the Southington, which reopened in June 2010.

NeonMichael
NeonMichael on December 25, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Lots of info from the Hartford Courant:

The Southington’s listing for May 18, 1955 was Seminole Uprising followed by Blackboard Jungle, which were still showing on May 20. The listing didn’t appear on May 13 (the previous Friday) or May 17, or Aug. 13, 1954 (spot check). I’m feeling more confident about that May 18, 1955 opening date.

In June 1978, the local Planning and Zoning Commission approved John Perakos' request to build a second screen. On July 9, 1979, the Southington was still advertising for one screen, but by July 13 it was advertising as the Southington Twin.

A July 1985 article said the Southington opened in 1955, so there’s one more source that agrees with me.

In December 1992, the Perakos family had informally offered to sell the drive-in for $2.75 million to the town of Southington, but the town wasn’t interested.

But in 1995, Sperie Perakos said he had no plans to give up the Southington, which he had recently remodeled.

In October 2002, the Perakos family sold West Hartford’s indoor Elm Theater. That left the family with only one “operating” theater – the Southington.

In April 2004, Southington voters approved the $1.61 million purchase of the 40-acre parcel by 2299 to 1087.

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