Saco Drive-In Theater, Maine–HABS/HAER Photography

In early 2023 I was asked to undertake the HABS/HAER photography and historic narrative of the historic Saco Drive-In Theater, on U.S. Route 1 in Saco, Maine, for the Maine Historic Building Record. This was a delightful project, enjoyable on its own merits but also a way to bring wonderful memories of enjoying drive-in theaters. I recall that the first movie that my parents brought me to see was the ever-classic Herbie the Love Bug at a drive-in theater near Gloversville, NY.

The Saco Drive-In was first built in 1939, the first “open air theater” in Maine and only the second in all of New England. It operated during the summers from 1939 through 1941, then was closed during World War II. The theater reopened in 1946, and in 1948 came under new management on the eve of the heyday of drive-in theaters in America. In response to the explosive growth in popularity of these theaters, the family that owned and operated the Saco Drive-In from 1948 throughout the 1950s, Eugene and Helen Boragine, built a new concessions building with the projection room, and built the massive new screen building.

Like most drive-in theaters in America, this one in Saco began to struggle in the late 1960s, turning to films that were decidedly not family-friendly during the 1970s and early 1980s. The Roberge family then acquired the property in the 1980s and returned it to a place where families could come for a summer’s evening of gentle fun. The Roberge family continued to own the theater, operating it until 2010 when they leased the operation, and survived the shift to digital technology in 2013 with the help of a grant from the Honda Corporation with the enormous support of its fans. The theater was unable to survive the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, and sold the property in late 2021.

Although the theater buildings from the 1950s are now gone, the Aquaboggan Water Park, located across U.S. Route 1 from the theater since late 1970s, has acquired much of the original equipment and is now operating the Saco Drive-in Theater, continuing the tradition of providing summertime family entertainment in southern Maine since 1939.