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Drive-in theater keeps traditions alive in Milford

Union Leader correspondent

June 29. 2014 9:13PM
Not much has changed at the Milford Drive-In Theater that still plays the throwback dancing food intermission film in a relaxing outdoor atmosphere. (Kathleen Baglio Humphreys)

MILFORD — What is better on a warm summer night than sitting under the stars enjoying a drive-in theater’s double feature movie with a big bucket of popcorn and family or friends?

Drive-ins bring back the nostalgia of the 1950s and 1960s when they were the fashionable hangout destination.

“Nostalgia,” is a word to describe the essence of the drive-in experience said Bob Scharnett who has owned the Milford Drive-In Theater for 47 years.

The twin screen theater at 531 Elm St. opens at 7 p.m. while the movies play at dusk.

Load up the car because it cost $25 for a carload of six passengers with additional passengers an extra $5 each.

On a typical night, kids play on the swings or throw the ball around while people are relax in their folding chairs or play board games waiting for dusk. New this year is an RC car race track.

Milford’s quaint concession stand offers all the traditional foods such as popcorn, hot dogs, burgers, fries, soft pretzels, nachos, fried dough, frappes and all sorts of ice creams and beverages.

Judy Pengle sings children’s song on weekends. “The kids go crazy over her,” said Scharnett.

The Milford Drive-in Theater was the first in the country to go digital. “We changed as soon as possible. It offers a much sharper picture and the sound is fantastic,” said Scharnett.

“I’ve never been to a drive-in before so this is a new experience and it’s pretty cool,” said 18-year old Andy Stock from Derry, who was on a date and headed back to his car with an armload of food.

The Canney family from Manchester watched from the back of their SUV on comfy pillows. Katie Canney said, “It’s cozy and more comfortable.” Her husband, David, has been a patron for over 24 years and added, “This is more like old times.”

Drive-ins are a great tradition but today, they are almost gone.

According to Scharnett, the United States had over 4,000 drive-ins in its heyday but that number dwindled to 326. New Hampshire has four drive-in theaters remaining: Milford, Weir’s Beach Drive-In, Northern Nights Drive-In in Lancaster and Northfield Drive-In in Hinsdale.

Cathi Dion of Merrimack likes the outdoor atmosphere, but also the price as she loaded eight people in her car. “It’s a super price for $25. It makes you closer and something you can enjoy as a family”.

Mason Dorsey, 11, from Milford, was sitting in a folding chair enjoying his friends and popcorn and commented, “I like being outside. Herewe can see the stars, smell the fresh air and see interesting bugs.”

Milford Drive-In Theater closes the last Saturday in September. For more information visit or call 603-673-4090.

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