Father, sons and family celebrate 50 years of owning Milford Drive-In

Union Leader Correspondent
June 16. 2018 9:10PM
Twins Brett and Jessica Scharmett, 18, who went to Conval Regional High School in Peterborough, are with their dad, Barry, at the Milford Drive-In. Barry Scharmett owns the theater with his dad, Bob, and brother, Steve. The twins often work there on weekends. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MILFORD -- Despite the popularity of Netflix and home theaters, a father and his two sons believe that the nostalgia of watching a movie in the back of a pickup truck under the stars will never fade.

This Father's Day, Bob Scharmett and his sons celebrate 50 years of owning the Milford Drive-In - an accomplishment that hasn't been made easier in the age of cord cutting and iPhones.

And just how does this father-and-sons trio manage to succeed while mixing family and business?

"It works best when I am in Florida," joked Scharmett. "Or when we don't talk to each other."

But in all seriousness, sons Barry and Steve say the seasonal business is their livelihood, and its success depends mostly on summer blockbusters.

About three years ago, the Milford Drive-In converted its film projectors to digital, and the venue now only airs first-run, new releases. The drive-in was forced to change with the times in order to prosper, say the Scharmetts.

Now, on any given weekend, hundreds of vehicles are lined up throughout the complex at 531 Elm St. with their back hatches open and couples and children settling in for a double feature.

"This is such an old-school feeling. My parents took us to the drive-in when we were younger and we loved it," said Caitlyn Weiger of Enfield, who was at the drive-in last weekend watching "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and "Deadpool 2."

For $27 a car, the experience is cheaper for families than a traditional movie theater, and the outdoor ambiance is much better, agreed moviegoers.

"It is a walk down memory lane. It is just like when we were kids," said Mike Blache of Sandown. "And they have the latest and greatest movies playing."

While families primarily come to the drive-in to enjoy the Hollywood fare, Barry Scharmett says it is also about the social aspect - fathers playing catch with their kids, moms pushing their children on the swings and grandparents walking their dogs.
Linda Jacobson hands out tickets from the booth at the Milford Drive-In on June 8, 2018. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

His father agreed, saying there are only about 330 drive-in movie theaters still operating throughout the country. Although he wouldn't disclose how many vehicles come through the Milford Drive-In on a typical summer week, he said it's enough to keep the operation running each summer. The Scharmett family also owns and operates four car washes. 

The local drive-in first opened in 1957 with Bob Scharmett's cousins, Bob and Sidney Goodrich, launching the endeavor. Bob Scharmett purchased the drive-in about 12 years later, and his sons agreed to help keep the business afloat. 

Now, 50 years on, Barry's own children have taken an interest in the family business. His 18-year-old twins, Brett and Jessica, are often seen working the weekend shifts helping in the snack shack or assisting with the equipment. 

"This is the only drive-in left in the area. How can you not love it?" said Jim Blache, whose family had loaded the pickup truck with beanbag cushions, lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray. They were in for the long haul and prepared for a double feature to keep them at the drive-in until about 2 a.m. 

"This really allows you to capture the moment. It is such a classic feel watching a movie and listening to it through the radio," said Christian Young-Burnham. 

His friend, Chris Williams of Enfield, said the upgrade to digital projection was a turning point for the Milford Drive-In, a change that he said kept the venue alive. 

During the summer of 2002, Williams said, he spent the entire summer at the local drive-in watching every blockbuster that came out, including "Spider-Man," "Lilo & Stitch," "The Bourne Identity" and "Men In Black II." 

Those are great memories that probably wouldn't exist if they had taken place in a traditional movie theater, Williams said. 

"This is it. Where else are you going to go and get this experience?" said Lisa Ross of Derry, who brought two dogs for company. 

The drive-in is now open daily for the season. For more information and showtimes, visit milforddrivein.com.


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