Drive-In Opening For New, Classic Films

Unadilla Drive-In Opening

For New, Classic Films

Spencer Wilson, whose family bought the Unadilla Drive-in in 1999, fearing it would be demolished, says his venue is ideal for social distancing, and he’s anticipating a busy summer. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

UNADILLA – If you’ve never seen the classics on the big screen, this year, you might get your chance.
“There aren’t any movies being released this summer,” said Spencer Wilson, who manages his family’s Unadilla Drive-In. “But there are tons of options for screening older and classic movies.”

Under Phase One of un-PAUSE, drive-in theaters can open, and Wilson will open The Unadilla on Friday, May 29, showing a double-feature of “Trolls World Tour” and “Jumanji: The Next Level.”
“These are movies that didn’t get a full theater run time,” he said. “We’ll do those for the first few weekends until they run out.”

After that, he said, is when the fun really begins. “With classic movies, you know you’ve seen them, you know you like them,” he said. “But how often do you get to see them on the big screen?”

Wilson is considering doing theme nights, including ’80s classics like “Footloose” or original superhero movies, such as the Adam West “Batman” (1966) and the Christopher Reeves “Superman” (1978).

They could also repeat some of their most popular showings. “The ‘Jurassic Park’ movies are all available,” he said. “Those were always our most popular nights.”

So popular, he said, that in 2015, the “Jurassic World” showing had cars lined up out to the bridge. “We had to park people behind the fence,” he said. “We can fit between 350-400 cars here.”

The “Marvel” movies and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogies are also available, which could make for some long nights. “We have had people fall asleep here!” he said. “I have to go around and knock on their windows to wake them up.”

The Wilsons have owned the drive-in since 1999, when father Eric Wilson purchased it after hearing it might be torn down. It was originally built in 1956, one of two drive-ins, along with the Del-Sego at Emmons, in the area.

This summer, precautions will be taken to assure that social distancing is followed, including reducing capacity to 50 percent. “Normally we can fit two cars between the poles,” he said. “Now, we’ll just have one car.”

Customers will now reserve a space on the drive-in’s website. “We’ll have 100 spots for sale online, and 50 at the gate,” he said. “But if you don’t reserve online, you run the chance of not getting in.”

He stressed that families are still allowed to sit outside their vehicles. “Kids can still run around,” he said. “But we want to make sure everyone is safe.”

The snack bar will also be fully operational, but employees and customers will be required to wear masks, and employees will wear gloves to handle food, credit cards and money. Spaces will also be put in place to make sure that people are standing far enough apart in line, and plexiglass barriers will be erected between the cashiers and the customers.

In addition to movies, Wilson has been in touch with several school superintendents who have expressed interest in holding their graduation ceremonies there.

Under un-PAUSE, movie theaters like the Southside Mall Cinema won’t be able to open until Phase Four – July 1 at the earliest.

“People are chomping at the bit to get outside and do something that’s still legal,” he said. “And we’re the only game in town.”


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