The north parking lot at The Gateway was empty, but executive artistic director Paul Allan was measuring details, like how many cars could be serviced for a movie drive-in.
The projector would be anchored to the west side of the main house that actors stay in, then angled so that a film could appear on a screen established in front of trees to the rear. Sound would be broadcast from FM radios in the vehicles.
“I just spoke with [Bellport] mayor [Ray] Fell the other day about starting a drive-in movie theater,” Allan said of his proposed plan. “We want to partner with restaurants offering a basic menu with a couple of options that could be ordered online. We can scan a ticket at the front entrance, hand them a prepared meal [meals would be stored in the house kitchen], and direct them to a viewing area.”
Allan said he was thinking of about 50 cars.
Fell said he hadn’t approached the village board yet, but would consult with them over the next week. Allan would need a variance and logistics would be reviewed.
“The village board would have to look at what he wants to do,” Fell said. “I imagine it would be for a short period of time, but my personal feeling is that we should do everything we can to keep The Gateway as a viable option for the village and the general community. He said the sound won’t be broadcast aloud but through individual radios in patrons’ cars, so I don’t think the sound would be an issue. A drive-in has to start when it gets dark and I’m sure the board wants to make sure it’s over at 11 p.m.”
As for the food option, “He did mention partnering with restaurants,” Fell said. “In his initial discussion, we said he’d have to contact the Suffolk County Health Department for approval.”
An indie film night may be in the mix as well. Allan and Plaza Cinema executive director Catherine Oberg have spoken. Oberg said she had reached out to Scot Allan, The Gateway’s director of development and public relations, to get the ball rolling.
“A lot of people are thinking about this,” Oberg said when contacted. “Similar ideas are happening in Patchogue and Suffolk County, and I think we’d be happy to partner if we can work something out.”
The Gateway would use the high lumen projector for stage scenery, as they did in their recent production of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”
There would be limited bathroom facilities.
Allan mentioned licensing fees that would have to be paid. “You have to go through the proper channels,” Allan said.
“Our goal is to get it off the ground. It will be a little bit of income coming in, but will also keep us in the public eye and entertain the community. If we can’t do a live show, to me, a breakeven is a win.”