Drive-In to simulcast final Grateful Dead concert

MILFORD – When Barry Scharmett took over the Milford Drive-In Theater that his parents ran for more than four decades he wanted to make some chang­es. One of those changes will be on the two screens Sunday night, when it becomes one of four drive-ins in the country to simulcast the Grateful Dead’s final concert.

Scharmett, who runs the theater with his brother Steven, said he has been working on the simul­cast project for two months and had wanted to do this for a long time.

"It was not simple," he said. "I’ve been making contacts, find­ing the equipment."

It may not be that simple for po­lice, either.

"The owner approached us. He said this is what we’re thinking of doing – and we said, ‘Oh boy,’" said Milford Police Capt. Craig Frye. "We’re still working with them on details."

The Milford Drive-In is located at the end of a short dead-in road that runs past a mobile home park from busy Elm Street. When block­busters are shown, cars waiting to pay and enter the movie theater can back up all the way to Elm Street, which is when a police detail is hired to help traffic flow.

"We do the big mov­ies," said Frye. "Normal­ly there’s one guy out on (Elm Street) and one guy in the theater. But only when it’s super crowded."

The Greateful Dead simulcast is likely to be super crowded, partly because the only other drive-ins in the country to show it are in Mendon, Mass., and California. It will also be shown on a number of indoor the­aters.

The Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well reunion concert is celebrating the band’s 50th anniver­sary over five nights, with Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart. The band’s most famous member. Jerry Garcia, died in 1995. Trey Anastasio from the Ver­mont band Phish, which is often compared to the Grateful Dead, will be on guitar, with Jeff Chimenti on keyboards and Bruce Hornsby accompanying on piano.

The Milford theater will simulcast the final show on both its screens.

The Fare Thee Well concerts will take place in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Scharmett said recent Dead reunion concerts in California have earned "spectacular reviews," with the band doing 25 songs per concert.

He thinks the show Sun­day night will go on for three or four hours.

Milford’s outdoor the­ater is one of the last four of its kind in New Hamp­shire, screening double features of first-run films . It was built by Sydney Goodridge in 1958, and in 1969, Bob and Fay Scharmett bought it and made several improve­ments, including adding a second screen.

About three years ago the theater replaced its film projection system with a digital system.

Fare Thee Well ticket prices were an issue when they first went on sale in March for thousands of dollars each. Tickets to the Milford Drive-In will be a lot less but will be sold per person, instead of the usual one ticket per car. They can be pur­chased in advance for $15; the price on the night of the event, if any are avai­labe, will be $20.

Scharmett said his fa­ther, Bob, and brother had no idea he was work­ing on the project behind the scenes with a compa­ny called Fathom Events.

The process is compli­cated, but to put it simply, he had to link a satellite dish to a digital video re­corder and to his projec­tor. By early this week he expects the equipment to be ready to operate. So far, he said, he does not know how much it will cost.

Fathom offers live satellite shows of arts, sports and entertainment events, including live si­mulcasts of operas from New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Scharmett is more in­terested in boxing than in opera, but he said there definitely will be more concerts, and perhaps a Pink Floyd show in late September.

According to Billboard magazine, Fathom is owned by three major theater chains, and they will be showing the Grate­ful Dead concert at in­door theaters across the country.

The Milford box office will open at 4 p.m. Sun­day, and the simulcast concert from Chicago will start at about 8:30 p.m.

Each person in a vehi­cle must have their own ticket, and each vehicle must have a minimum of two people. For more in­formation call 673-4090.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.