The weather was cloudy and drizzly at 7 p.m. Saturday, but already a dozen cars were waiting in line at the Prides Corner Drive-In in Westbrook.

The ticket booth would not open until 7:30, and the films wouldn’t begin until about 8:30, but these people wanted to get the prime spots.

Five drive-in theaters continue operating in Maine. In addition to Prides Corner, theaters operate in Saco, Bridgton, Skowhegan and Madawaska. That number is down from a high of about 40.

But the ones that remain are popular, and the people who come to them love them.

Daniel and Echo Downs of Standish were among the first people to arrive with their two young daughters and a dog.

“It’s just a lot of fun, and we can bring the dog,” Echo said as she was setting up blankets and food in preparation for the show, which included the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” installment and “Thor.” “It’s comfortable, and the kids get to stay up a lot later than normal.”

Jerry DeWitt of New Gloucester was there with his wife and 13-year-old daughter, and said he comes many times each summer. Bob Dudley of Windham brought his grandchildren and combined the event with a dinner of pizza and other items from the snack bar. “The pizza hasn’t changed in 50 years,” he said.

John Tevanian Sr., who opened the theater in 1953, still sells tickets, but his son Andrew is now the prime operator.

“We’re bringing the old dinosaur back to life,” Andrew Tevanian said between selling food, answering the telephone and joking with customers.

He says a variety of factors caused most drive-ins to go out of business, but mostly the land was more valuable for houses or other commercial operations. Plus, people could rent movies or watch them on HBO in the comfort of their own homes.

The vast majority of customers are couples or single parents with children, a few older adults without children, and a very few high-school and college-age youths on dates or in groups.

The Bridgton Twin Drive-In has two screens and is owned by John Tevanian Jr., Andrew’s brother.

“Back in the ’60s it was more of a teenage thing,” John Tevanian Jr. said, “but now it is almost all families. Up here, it is sort of a tourist thing — people from away letting their kids have the drive-in experience because they don’t have them where they live. It’s just a more relaxed atmosphere than indoors when you have children.”

The Saco Drive-In is owned by the Roberge family, but this summer, three marketing students at the University of Southern Maine will operate it as a summer business project. It will open this weekend with “The Blind Side” and “The Hangover Part II” at a price of $10 per car. After that, the price will be $20 per car.

At Prides Corner, the price is $7 for adults, $4 for ages 4 to 11, and free for children under age 4. The Bridgton Drive-in costs $7.50 for adults, $5 for ages 4 to 11, and free for under age 4.

A lot of customers bring their own refreshments to drive-ins, but Prides Corner does a good business at the snack bar — partly because the prices are reasonable. A 9-inch pizza is $6.25, french fries are $3, hot dogs are $2, cheeseburgers are $3, and a small popcorn is $2.50.

The drive-in theater is not the only dinosaur Andrew Tevanian loves at Prides Corner. Until just before the movie starts, patrons can play about a half-dozen video games from his personal collection, with Pac-Man and related games dominating the ones on display Saturday.

But the real family entertainment is the movie, projected from one huge reel of 35 mm film. The reel measures almost 3 feet across and includes an introduction, both movies and an intermission.

Tevanian only has to start it up at dusk and then can go back to selling snacks, joking with customers, and running the drive-in that he loves — and promises to keep in operation forever.

Staff Writer Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6632 or at:

[email protected]