WESTBROOK — The marquee at Prides Corner Drive-In is expected to be lit up again before the summer’s over.
Jeff Tevanian, the drive-in manager and son of owners John and Thelma Tevanian, said the theater should be open by Aug. 4, possibly as early as July 28.
For the first time since the drive-in opened in 1951 in the neighborhood bounded by Portland, Falmouth and Windham, the theater will have a digital projector, having switched over from 35 mm film.
The drive-in, at 651 Bridgton Road (Route 302), has been closed since September 2015.
Tevanian on Monday said the theater didn’t reopen last year because it needed the new projector. The digital projector arrived Monday afternoon, but a dozen or so additional pieces are still needed. He didn’t disclose the cost of the digital projector.
The six drive-in movie theaters in Maine have all switched to digital projection, including the Bridgton Twin Drive-In, which is owned by Tevanian’s brother, John Tevanian Jr.
Aside from the new projector, Prides Corner Drive-In has changed very little since patrons last visited. Tevanian has repainted the snack bar and cleared brush from the field.
“This is the hard part,” he said of the work he’s done to spruce up the theater. “The fun part is obviously when people are here and things are running smoothly.”
Tevanian grew up in the business, but said this will be the first time he operates a drive-in by himself. He helped manage it for a few years in the early 2000s, but his brother Andrew had been the manager until 2015.
Knowing the theater field will soon be filled with movie-goers again is exciting, Tevanian said. The field holds 550 cars and he said he expects the drive-in to be very busy in the first few weeks after it reopens.
“Since everyone missed it, they may all come at once,” he said.
That could pose a challenge for the drive-in staff. Tevanian said some former employees may come back, but for the most part, new employees must be hired.
“The only challenge right here is having the unknown of trying to hire people who may not have worked at a drive-in,” he said.
Aside from that, he expects the theater to run smoothly. After the final pieces for the projector arrive and the city’s code enforcement officer completes an inspection, the theater will be ready to open.
With so few drive-in movie theaters left in the state, Tevanian said he thinks a big draw is the reminder they provide of simpler times.
“It’s one of those things you grow up with, so it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s nostalgic as well, so you have to keep that.”
Manager Jeff Tevanian expects the Prides Corner Drive-In to reopen on Route 302 in Westbrook by Aug. 4.