The Weirs Beach Drive-In is for sale for $2.5 million. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)
LACONIA — One of the first drive-in movie theaters in the state is up for sale and may be about to open for its last summer.
The Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater opens this weekend with ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ on two of its four screens. But owner Patricia Baldi confirmed that the drive-in, which was one of the state’s first two drive-ins when it opened in 1948, is for sale.
Baldi won’t say it’s her last season running the theater. Despite the planned sale, the drive-in will undergo a major digital upgrade this summer, a change that has been planned for some time.
“And you never know if it’s going to sell right away, so I can’t say it’s the last summer,” she said.
But Baldi lost her husband, Lawrence, in 2011 and she can’t keep up with the theater, she said.
“It’s too much for me. I have mixed feelings, it’s time to move on,” she said.
Baldi and her realtor, Russ Poirier of REMAX Bayside in Meredith, think the 12.6 acres of property, which is for sale at $2.5 million, might have a better use.
“It might be more worthwhile for a different use,” she said.
Poirier, who says several buyers have “kicked the tires” on the property already, said he can envision a hotel, a “four-season resort” on the property.
“It’s a property with wonderful opportunities, and Laconia is growing,” he said. “I don’t see it as a drive-in anymore. Drive-ins are a seasonal business, and it’s something that people don’t do much anymore.”
There are at least three drive-ins left in New Hampshire in addition to the Weirs Drive-In: the Northfield Drive-In in Winchester (which was also built in 1948), the Milford Twin Drive-in in Milford, and the Northern Nights Drive-In in Lancaster, all of which are either open for the summer season or are soon to open.
According to the site www.driveintheater.com, at the peak of drive-ins in New Hampshire, in 1963, there were 23 drive-ins in the state. The number had dropped to 16 in 1982 and down to five in 1999.
D. Edward Vogel of the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association said the Weirs Beach Drive-In Theater’s story is similar to many drive-ins across the country.
“In a lot of cases, you have a couple who ran the drive-in for years and years and did well with it, but one passes on and they decide to sell,” Vogel said.
But, Vogel said, the fact that Baldi is upgrading her screens this summer is significant.
“I wouldn’t bet against someone coming in there and making it work again as a drive-in,” he said. “There’s plenty of money to be made for the right person, especially if they are already doing the digital upgrade.”