A follow up to Preservation Photos #120.
Long Island had many drive-in theaters in the 1960s-1970s. The suburban setting and still vast amount of land available was perfect for drive-ins. The Rocky Point Drive-in opened in 1961 with capacity for 750 cars, a modern snack bar, speakers for the cars and a playground for the kids. The spaces for cars were on an angle, so the front of each car would be raised a bit for better viewing. It closed in 1988 and remained empty into the 1990s. After closing as a drive-in, the Rocky Point property reopened as a golf driving range; however, that didn’t last long. You can see in these photographs that the driving range used the existing sign.
As a kid, I always found the Rocky Point marquee fascinating; to me it was something tangible of my mother’s childhood, and helped me to imagine what Long Island was like for her. It is a unique relic for Long Island, one left alone among the intensive development. Beyond that marquee, my mother’s stories and the movie Grease, I didn’t have any connections to drive-in theaters. As we know, drive-ins today are few and far between. I don’t think I ever saw one in operation until I lived in Virginia (and my friends and I had to make a trek to find that one).
The marquee for the Rocky Point Drive-in on Long Island has been slowly deteriorating throughout my entire life. For years I have wanted to stop and photograph the sign, hoping to capture a bit of roadside Long Island before it was too late. Finally, I found the time to do so.
Drive-ins existed on Long Island throughout the 1950s-1970s, with many closing in the late ’70s and ’80s; few lasted into the ’90s. The Westbury Drive-in was the last operating drive-in on Long Island; it closed in 1998 after a long fight. Aside from the lure of indoor theaters, drive-ins closed mostly due to pressures of real estate prices; once closed and demolished, the land became more profitable shopping malls and hotels.
What will happen in this location? There has been talk of big box stores wanting this land for decades. Fortunately, the citizens of Rocky Point are opposed. A Facebook group is hoping to garner support to reopen the drive-in. Who knows? Maybe it will become a park and leave some green space on Route 25A. I’m glad I finally took those pictures.