SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Now playing, at a parking lot near you… the hottest trend in entertainment, post-pandemic… the pop-up drive-in movie.
A big screen has been constructed in the Orange parking lot across from the State Fair. Pizze Fritte king Grazi Zazzara has been using the lot for his State Fair Food Fest for the last few weeks, and he’s been making plans for the drive-in for about a month. The plans came together once the state and county relaxed shelter-in-place regulations enough to let people sit in lawn chairs in front of their cars.
“There’ll be another car about ten feet away,” says Zazzara. “We’re spacing it quite a ways so you’re going to be surrounded by a lot of people that are going to be able to, ‘Hey Larry, How you doin’?’ You get to wave, still interact with people but keep it a safe distance.”
From the 40’s through the 70’s, Central New York families spent hot summer nights piling into their Plymouths and visiting the Salina Drive-in in Nedrow, the Lakeshore in Liverpool, and the DeWitt Drive-in on Erie Boulevard East, ironically on land the Zazzaras now use for the DeWitt Town Center.
Those Syracuse-area screens came down in the early 1980’s, when the land under them became more valuable for other development. (Drive-ins in towns like Auburn and Minetto have continued to run.)
This year, Covid-19 has closed movie taverns. The major studios are holding big summer releases like “Top Gun: Maverick” until the indoor screens can reopen. So, Zazzara is reaching back to the 1986 original ‘Top Gun’ to launch his new venture.
“You can go on your TV at home right now and get better movies than we’ll show you,” says Zazzara. “But it’s not the movie, it’s the experience of being here. The movie is just a reason to come up here.”
Zazzara has seen people wait hours to buy Pizze Fritte and other treats at his State Fair Food Fest over the last few weekends. That operation continues, and moviegoers will be able to order food from their cars so they don’t have to leave their vehicles.
The drive-in plan is to “roll ’em” weekly on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights between 8:30 and 9:00 p.m. (A foul weather forecast forced this weekend’s schedule to be cut back to just Saturday and Sunday.)
Tickets will be sold on-site. Grazi expects to accommodate around 350 cars, at $20 a carload. After that, they’ll close the gates. Zazzara urges movie goers to come early, before the lot fills up.
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