A car is parked Saturday at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre on the second-to-last night of movies playing at the theater in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre has been open since 1954, during what’s considered the golden age of film and is now currently one of the last remaining drive-ins in Maine.

But its 68-year run could be coming to an end.

Both Bangor and Saco announced their closings early this year, and the owner of the Skowhegan drive-in says that operations are now hanging by a thread.

“The Bangor Drive-In and Saco Drive-In closed and looks like the Skowhegan drive-in might have to close as well,” owner Don Brown said. “In 2019, before the pandemic operations were normal,” Brown said. “By the second week of the 2022 season audience numbers fell through the floor. It’s unlike anything else before. We were at the point of operating just week-to-week.”

Brown is the drive-in’s sixth owner since it opened.

Moviegoers watch “Grease” on Saturday, the second-to-last night of movies playing at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

He said many people are streaming movies at home from Amazon, Netflix and many other services, and he said there are few big box office films being released to theaters.


“There’s no big box office draw for Maine’s demographic. A lot of older Mainers aren’t interested in seeing those films with a lot of special effects,” Brown said. “People’s interest in movies seems to have diminished.”

Brown notes that after the big draw early this summer from films like “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and “Jurassic World Dominion,” there wasn’t anything else coming to theaters people were interested in.

“I’d certainly like to see the drive-in survive,” he said. “I’d like to see a community organization come together and try to buy it and operate it as a nonprofit.”

Brown mentioned there was a drive-in theater in Nashville, Tennessee, that was on the verge of closing when an organization known as Hull’s Angels took over operations and now runs it as a nonprofit theater.

Brown has been in contact with Main Street Skowhegan as well as Maine Preservation to apply to be on the state list of Most Endangered Historic Places. But he hasn’t heard anything back.

Over the last few years during the pandemic the drive-in was used as a site for Maine International Film Festival showings.


“The people at MIFF have been a great support for the theater,” he said. “The first year of the pandemic all the movies were at the drive-in, by the second there were four showings here, and this year they held one special drive-in night. They want to get back to this ‘new normal’ and go back to showings at the Opera House and Railroad Square Cinema (in Waterville).”

Brown hopes that a solution can be found so the theater can continue to operate, but he has his doubts.

“I really hope we can move forward,” he said. “I really wish the community had a greater support for the theater. I am not sure why that happened.

“It’s hard to have confidence in the future of the industry right now. This American experience seems to be coming to an end.”

Brown said that the drive-in is available for rentals until mid-October for things like Halloween screenings. After that, when it is time to winterize the theater, the future is still uncertain.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.