By Rob Glidden
The Southington Drive-In Theater is returning for its third season beginning on June 8 with a new slate of movies and a growing amount of fame within the state.
In three years, the drive-in has gone from an ambitious idea to a wildly successful summer event that draws huge crowds. This month, it was spotlighted in Connecticut Magazine as part of a list of the state’s best attractions.
“We’ve attracted people from all over the state and we’ve gotten so much publicity over the last few years,” said Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, a member of the committee that oversees the theater. “Little by little, the word has gotten out.”
The first film shown for the summer season will be “Jaws,” a movie making its third appearance at the drive-in thanks to its consistent ability to draw a large crowd. This screening will be sponsored by the Southington Education Foundation, one of over a dozen civic groups that raise funds each year by sponsoring a screening.
“It’s nice to have such a unique event that brings people from all over the place,” said Tina Taylor of the Mill Foundation for kids, which is screening the 1996 remake of “Flipper.” “It’s a great opportunity for us to get exposure and raise money, and the amount we raise there is really quite amazing.”
Miceli said that negotiating with Hollywood studios has gotten increasingly complicated (“Star Wars” remains elusive), but the committee was able to secure the rights to some very popular films requested often by the drive-in fans on Facebook, such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Princess Bride.”
As with last year, there will be a weekend double feature on July 12 and 13. On the first evening, the Southington Land Trust will screen “Clambake,” a musical from 1967 starring Elvis Presley. The next night, the Southington Rotary Club will show “Beach Blanket Bingo,” starring Annette Funicello. The Halloween event is also expected to return in October, but the films have not yet been selected.
This is also the first year the drive-in has had a season-long corporate sponsor – Richard Chevrolet. The sponsorship will help the drive-in continue to enhance the pre-show events that entertain families before the movie starts.
“We want to make each night an experience,” Miceli said. “The idea is that you’re not just watching a movie, you’re enjoying the park with your family.”
Other films on the schedule this year include the original 1968 version of “The Love Bug,” “The Great Outdoors,” “Brave,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “Rudy,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” For a full schedule, see sidebar.