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ROCKPORT, Maine ― The newly completed Shotwell Drive-In will screen its first movie this weekend on the site of the former Rockport Elementary School.
Saturday night’s film will be the 1986 classic “Stand By Me,” directed by Rob Reiner and based on the 1982 novella by Maine’s own Stephen King.
After getting approval from town officials, the Points North Institute ― the group behind Camden International Film Festival ― developed and constructed the drive-in from scratch in about six weeks.
While the institute typically focuses on documentary films rather than scripted ones, Executive Director Ben Fowlie, said opening with a Maine-related classic just felt right.
Tickets for the screening sold out quickly this week, but Fowlie said a limited number of additional tickets will be available for sale Friday online.
“Just goes to show that people are very excited about finding creative ways to come together during these times and the drive-in is a great example of how we can do that in a safe and fun way,” Fowlie said.
The Points North Institute initially pursued the idea of creating a pop-up drive-in theater as a way to create a venue for its annual documentary film festival in October. With the pandemic restricting the capacity of moviegoers in theaters, a drive-in can provide a safe and socially distanced movie-going experience.
The midcoast area has been without a drive-in theater since the 1980s, when the Rockland Drive-In located on Route 1 in Rockport closed. The Shotwell Drive-In will remain open through the end of October, but Fowlie said there is a chance they could work with the town to extend its lease on the site.
Aside from serving as one of the primary venues for this year’s Camden International Film Festival ― which runs Oct. 1 -Oct. 12 ― about three films will be screened per month this summer. Every other Thursday the drive-in will screen a documentary film. One or two classic films will be screened on select Saturdays.
“We came out of the gate saying that this venue is for the community,” Fowlie said. “As much as we love documentaries, we also want families to come together and watch classic movies.”
The construction of the drive-in took just over two weeks and was largely done by local independent contractors and people the organization has worked with for the set design and production of the film festival.
The traditional lean-to style screen is about 45 feet wide and 35 feet high. A laser projector sits inside a 25-foot tall tower modeled after a lighthouse. About 200 lobster traps donated by Thomaston-based Brooks Trap Mill will be used as barriers throughout the space, which can accommodate 80-100 vehicles.
Audio from the films will be transmitted over an FM radio station into individual vehicles.
A schedule of screenings and ticket information is available on the Points North Institute website.
Fowlie, a Rockport native, said it’s been an exciting experience to work with the community to bring a drive-in theater back to the area — even if it’s just for the summer.
“We’ve been talking a lot about retro summer and kind of all the things we moved away from with technology and everything else,” he said. “I think if there is any silver lining to these very challenging times we’re in it’s that things change but things don’t really change. The idea of the drive-in is still powerful and exciting.”
The Shotwell Drive-In is located at 40 West St., in Rockport. Saturday’s screening of “Stand By Me” begins at 8:15 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance online.