When it comes to making summer memories, the kind that you’ll look back on when you’re feeling nostalgic about “the good ol’ days,” it usually involves long nights spent with friends and family enjoying the warmth of the outdoors. Something as simple as loading up your car and parking under the stars to catch the latest blockbuster hit was the way to do it back in the day, and now with the resurgence of drive-in theaters around the country, this retro activity has proven to stand the test of time.
Located just off of Route 5 on Van Buren Road between Dunkirk and Fredonia is the newly revitalized Van Buren Drive-In Theater & Activities Center.
The Van Buren Drive-In was built in 1948 and officially opened to the public on July 15, 1949. At the time, it held a capacity of 850 cars spreading almost 15 acres of parking area, making it one of the biggest drive-in theaters in its day. After seeing a decline with the change in technology, the Van Buren Drive-In came to a stall, closing its doors in 1991.
As one could imagine after years of neglect, the Van Buren Drive-In became overgrown, vandalized and torn apart by a tornado that passed through the region in 2011. While many would be deterred by this, one couple, Dan & Gina Beckley, we’re determined to return the drive-in theater to its former glory.
October 1, 2021 marked the re-opening of the Van Buren Drive-In. With a short season leading it to close for the winter, it is officially open again for the 2022 summer season!
Where the original 1948 screen stood is a new screen with movie showings on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at dusk. Outside of movies, the drive-in theater also is hosting a Vibin’ at the Drive-In jazz series where locals can bring a lawn chair and enjoy live music under the big screen.
As for future plans, the Van Buren Drive-In is working on restoring the original concession stand and ticket window as well as add additional screens, one including an an LED Video Wall system that would allow for movie watching during the day.
Follow them along on Facebook to see their journey as more updates unfold.
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