Time Honored Tradition

MILFORD – It’s not just a staple in Milford, it’s a throwback to Americana, the place where your grandparents said they used to go on a Friday night.

It’s also a great way to extend social distancing (car-from-car anyway), in this state of a health crisis.

On May 15, the Milford Drive-In will once again welcome carloads of families and friends as they open for business for the 2020 season.

Owner Barry Scharmett, whose family bought the drive-in in 1969, agreed that a drive-in might just be what people need right now. He admitted that the whole drive-in experience and the ideals behind it are a bit of a passion for him.

“There are,” he said. “I grew up as a kid, coming to the drive-in and working at it as a youngster. I remember years and years ago, my parents used to have candy bins in the office, and we used to lay on them and fall asleep while they were still there.”

Most people hear stories about the drive-in, but few know the history of the classic movie experience.

Though there were drive-ins as early as the 1910s, the first patented drive-in was opened on June 6, 1933, by Richard Hollingshead in New Jersey. Appealing to families, he advertised his drive-in as a place where, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.”

The Milford Drive-In itself was built in 1958 and owned by a local group of people. Several area contractors contributed labor and materials during construction hoping for a share of future profits. The drive-in opened as a single-screen theater with an 84-foot wooden frame screen, a combination concession, projection and restroom building, a box office and a playground.

In 1969, the Scharmett family purchased the drive-in from the original owners and they have operated it continuously since then, except for three years during the 1970s when the business was leased to the Fall River Theater Corporation.

Some of the many improvements the Scharmett’s have made over the years include, completely renovating the concession and restrooms, installing a new steel screen to replace the original wooden structure, building a new marquee, building a new box office, paving the entrance road and being the first drive-in in New Hampshire to provide both AM and FM radio sound to its customers.

In 1984, the drive-in became a twin when additional acreage was cleared; at the same time, the drive-in’s projection equipment was upgraded and continues to be upgraded to meet the growing technology demands of a modern operation.

Today, the Milford Drive-In is the only remaining drive-in theater in Southern New Hampshire.