Imagine it is Independence Day weekend in 1982. You and your family go out for the night to the local drive-in. Playing that night is the new Star Trek movie, the Wrath of Khan. As you drive up to your spot you smell freshly popped popcorn soaked in butter and freshly brewed cola. You get yourself situated as night begins to fall and the movie comes on to the enormous outdoor big screen. A night like this commonplace for the people of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont who went to Coury’s Drive-In in North Adams. It opened in June 1956, the heyday of drive-in theaters, before closing in the early 1990s.
Drive-Ins themselves have been around since the 1930s and were a great way to have a family night due to their low cost. The theaters charged by the car instead of the person and an entire family could go to a place like Coury’s for around $6.00. In 1958 there were over 4000 drive-in theaters in the United States. However, due to suburban expansion and the rising cost of land many drive-ins were forced to close.
Coury’s Drive-In according to Mr. Coury in an interview with the North Adams Transcript, was originally supposed to be a racetrack. However, the zoning board at the time was not too fond of this idea. Mr. Coury then decided to turn it into a drive-in which the zoning board approved. He established the largest curved and tilted screen in the area and established a strict policy of not showing any X-rated movies. The Drive-In turned out to be a such a success because Mr. Coury was able to buy out his main competitor, The Hoosac Drive-In, within six years of Coury’s opening. The atmosphere at the drive-in because of this was extremely friendly. Mr. Coury even said that there was always a member of his family there during the operating hours of the drive-in to help provide a family-friendly atmosphere.
Coury’s was so profitable during these early years that Mr. Coury some nights had to hire police officers to direct the traffic. It was also recommended to show up at least a half an hour before show time to get a spot. This success was largely due to an entire generation growing up around drive-ins and spending their weekends seeing the latest movies. However due to a generational shift this changed and around the 1970s and 80s drive-ins began to lose steam.
Coury’s however maintained enough revenue to make a profit and stay open. In 1981, it celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. Mr. Coury commented during that the drive-in itself was not making as much money as it used to, but he was still able to turn over a profit.
However, Coury’s did have some problems. According to Mr. Coury, the drive-in’s main problem was trying to open for the night with fog. Because the fog was unpredictable, it caused a bigger problem than rain. Thankfully it did not occur often, and the drive-in stayed open during most summer nights. Coury’s Drive-In remained profitable for several years despite the change of drive-ins around the country. This was due to these drive-ins selling the land to investors for large sums of money when the drive-in itself was not as profitable anymore. Coury’s Drive-in was an outlier, however, due to maintaining a loyal customer base and its location near the downtown area. The screen finally went dark when Mr. Coury sold the drive-in to WalMart in the early 1990s.