If the arid ten acre open field in Mansfield looks a bit like the land that time forgot, a reminder of why it appears so antiquated makes sense when the sun goes down. History and pop culture meet at the Mansfield Drive-In where cars still roll in and celluloid still rolls on. The Mansfield Drive-in is one of two full time drive-in movie theatres left in Connecticut. The drive-in opened in 1954, owner Michael Jungden started as a ticket manager in 1974. "We're still here every day," Jungden said, " there are so few drive-ins that people travel a long distance, I have people that come once a week and travel 45 minutes to an hour."
In the late 1950's drive-ins helped to drive movie business, there were an estimated 4000 screens across the country -- today about 400 remain. Jungden says the allure of the drive-in isn't the big name stars gracing the screens or high end production schemes but, simply, the experience. "We get people every week that have never been to a drive-in before," Jungden said. Tom Brown, with an SUV full of his kids and their cousins made the trek from West Hartford to see 'Toy Story 3'. Between unraveling blankets and distributing snacks, Brown said, "I think it's that I want the kids to have experiences I had growing up and this is one of the ones that's vanishing very quickly, so why not bring them out and have them experience it." Dean Kimber came with a crew of a dozen friends and family from South Windsor, he said, "It really is sort of americana and that's why we come, it's just so fun to bring the whole family out, you know, on car load night, we load everyone out and have fun with the family."
There are three screens in Mansfield, all showing a different double feature bill and room for about 900 cars. As far a screens go, the main screen in Mansfield is tough to miss, it measures 55 by 110. "I would certainly think it's the biggest movie screen in operation in the state of Connecticut by far," Jungden said. And, it appears, the show will go on, at least at this drive-in, Jungden added "we try to run a nice clean place for families, we've been lucky enough to keep it going."
The Mansfield Drive-in costs $9 dollars for adults and $5 for kids... Wednesday night is family night where everyone in the car gets in for $18. For show times and more information go to www.mansfielddrivein.com. The other fully operating drive-in theatre in the state is the Pleasant Valley Drive-in in Barkhamstead. Southington has a drive-in that operates on a limited schedule.