By Brooke Geery
Residents of Rutland have not had a local drive-in movie theater since the 1970s. On July 3, 2020, the classic movie format returned to the Marble Valley with a showing of the 1978 movie “Grease” at the Paramount Theatre’s new drive-in at the Vermont State Fairgrounds. The sold-out show welcomed 60 cars, full of approximately 200 people, to enjoy the show under clear skies and a full moon. Viewers set up chairs and blankets next to their cars to enjoy the fresh air, while maintaining social distancing protocols.
“I think everyone in attendance would agree it was nothing short of magical. It was an opportunity to get together in a safe way and it couldn’t have gone better,” Paramount Program Director Eric Mallette said. “The weather was perfect, there was a beautiful full moon, it was really just an alignment of all the stars.”
In addition to the film, moviegoers enjoyed delicious treats from the new Fairgrounds food park, featuring Sustainable Eats, Rutland County Maple Producers, Nana’s Fried Dough, Mama Tamara’s Italian, Better Buzz Mobile Expresso, TIFF’s Fair Eats, RACS Candy/Soda/Popcorn and Northeast Concessions lemonade/ smoothies. The food park is open not just during shows, but weekend evenings throughout the summer for all to enjoy. For exact hours, visit facebook.com/VTStateFair.
The first drive-in shows the Paramount announced in Rutland sold out in less than 10 minutes at a cost of $25 per car. This response has prompted a quick expansion. In addition to potentially adding more shows in Rutland, the crew at the Paramount is also adding another location in Brandon’s Estabrook Park. The Jack McKernon Drive-in pays tribute to the local man who passed away in 2015. Expanding into Brandon will help provide more entertainment for more people and expand the Paramount’s geographic reach.
“That was really driven out of mission to help those in our community and expand our reach with these drive-ins. We took a close look at the data and saw that it was mostly people coming from Pittsford and points south, so the logical next step was to expand into Brandon,” Mallette said.
The Brandon drive-in will follow the same model as Rutland and also have the capacity for 60 cars. The screen is being erected and things are moving along. “We don’t have a solid date, but we are working feverishly on it and expect that to be open no later than early August,” Mallette said.
This weekend in Rutland, the Paramount drive-in will show “Dirty Dancing” on Friday and “Jurassic Park” on Saturday night. Both shows are already sold out. Upcoming movies this summer include “What About Bob?,” “Shrek,” “Raiders of the Lost Art,” “Footloose,” “The Great Outdoors” and “Smokey and the Bandit.”
The Paramount Theatre continues to look for ways to entertain people in the area safely, and will keep the public up to date at paramountvt.org. Based on the initial response, Mallette thinks the drive-in theater will continue beyond the pandemic. “I think the market has proven that people like having this new thing to do,” he said. “I would just encourage people to keep an eye on our website. We have some tricks up our sleeve and we think the community will like them.”