HERMON, Maine — For 30 years, the Bangor Drive-In has sat dormant. Closed in 1985, the empty lot hasn’t hosted carloads of moviegoers since Ronald Reagan was president and you could mail a letter for 22 cents. But this summer, the two screens will return to life when Cinema Bangor LLC reopens the classic drive-in.
Slated for reopening on July 1, Bangor Drive-In is located in Hermon on Outer Hammond Street (Route 2) just over the town line from Bangor.
“We’re really just hoping that people embrace this experience again, it’s a very fun and a very experiential thing,” said Bangor real estate agent Carol Epstein. “I think a lot of people remember it at different times of their lives and … for the people who haven’t had the experience, we’re hoping they say, ‘Let’s go try it.’”
Epstein is a partner in Cinema Bangor LLC along with Joe O’Donnell of Belmont Capital in Boston. Cinema Bangor LLC, which also owns the Bangor Mall Cinema on Stillwater Avenue, is the group behind the drive-in’s revival.
For Epstein, this is more than a business venture. Her family has been involved in the theater business for 98 years. Her father opened the “theater under the stars” on June 7, 1950. Epstein said that she has fond memories of trying to stay on the drive-in playgrounds’ swings until the movie started so she could swing looking up at the huge screen above.
“[The drive-in] was a big piece of my childhood and I think for a lot of people it was a big piece of their childhood,” said Epstein.
In 1985, after 35 years, the Bangor Drive-In played its last film: “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” No word yet on what the first film screened there will be for the second act of this nostalgic theater.
What is certain is that the drive-in will offer double features seven days a week on two screens. Pricing will be by the carload, and sound will be broadcast on an FM signal through car speakers. There will also be a concession stand selling hamburgers, fries, pizza, ice cream, soft drinks and popcorn.
Epstein said she and the others hope the reopening will bring back a fun, family-oriented option to Bangor’s growing entertainment industry.
“Bangor’s becoming a hub for entertainment … but the drive-in is a very different experience,” she said.
However, attendance at drive-ins nationwide has sagged as the theaters have struggled to survive. In Maine, only a handful are still open, including the Saco Drive-In, which received a digital projector in a 2013 contest sponsored by Honda. Still, the drive-in may not reopen again this year because of rising costs from Hollywood to screen films.
Epstein said despite all this, she hopes the drive-in’s novelty and nostalgia brings with it a surge in folks looking for a classic experience.
In the coming weeks, Epstein and the others will be busy securing the final permits needed, planning and building a new concession building, bathrooms, projector buildings and repairing the two big screens.
“I truly don’t know how we’re going to do it all, we need this snow to melt,” she said.