Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ at Bayville Drive-In Movie Theater, Long Island

By Jonathan Spira on 19 June 2020
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Drive-in movie theaters are experiencing a kind of renaissance amidst the backdrop of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

For the uninitiated, a drive-in movie theater is comprised of a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a radio transmitter, and a large parking area for the automobiles from which the audience will watch the movie.  Some have concession stands, others offer carhop service to the vehicle, and some offer both.

In much of the world, and almost all of the United States, a drive-in movie is one of the few venues one can go to for an evening’s entertainment.  After all, what could be safer than watching a movie from the comfort of your own automobile in terms of maintaining distance from those who could harbor Covid-19?

Meanwhile, the first drive-in theater with purpose-made projection equipment was designed by chemical company magnate Richard Milton Hollingshead, Jr., who was working for his father’s auto parts store.  He came up with a design for ramps at each parking spot that would raise the vehicle’s front to allow the occupants to better see the screen without interference by other cars.Hollingshead was said to have done this because his mother was a rather large woman who found seats in conventional movie theaters to be uncomfortably small.

Hollingshead opened his Park-In Theaters in Camden, N.J. on June 6, 1933 and is credited as the inventor of the drive-in theater, even holding a patent on it.

Eighty-seven years to the dater late, I found myself at the Bayville Drive-In Movie Theater on Long Island, where the management of the family owned and operated Bayville Adventure Park, which opened some 80 years before the invention of the drive-in, had transformed its parking lot into a drive-in theater since the actual amusement park couldn’t remain open due to the pandemic.

There we were, in a 2020 Mazda 3 Hatchback, waiting to enter the parking lot, having arrived quite early for the night’s bill, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”  While this theater didn’t have a system that would tilt vehicles to improve viewing angle, the attendants guided cars in a form of size place order and we ended up immediately to the right of the projection booth with a great view.  Shortly after parking, a waitress arrived at our vehicle with a menu, a pencil, and a brief explanation of how things worked.

The sound for the movie would be broadcast over the FM radio band so we tuned the Mazda’s receiver to the specified frequency and watched as a parade of vintage 1950s and 1960s drive-in movie theater commercials and public-service messages played on the screen and set the mood.  If only the waitress had come on roller skates!

Once we tuned in, we realized that our private box had a sound system that delivered an accurate and extremely lifelike listening experience that exceeded the sound quality I’ve been exposed to at most cinemas.  Mazda had asked Bose to design a sound system engineered specifically for the vehicle, one that would take into account the contours and curves of the vehicle’s interior.  The 12-speaker audio system had two interesting features, Centerpoint surround technology and CenterStage. Centerpoint converted the sound from the movie into multiple channels, and created an extremely immersive and enjoyable listening experience for us, while CenterStage’s signal processing put each moviegoer in the vehicle in the center of the music, regardless of his seat.

The menu was enticing, a variety of mixed drinks, entrées, and movie-house standards.  We ordered a boozy milk shake and a Bahama Mama (light rum, coconut rum, crème de banana, pineapple juice, and grenadine), and the Crispy Coconut Shrimp, Chicken Tenders, and the Movie Burger (with bacon and mozzarella) as entrées to share. The food arrived shortly before the movie rolled.  We found the shrimp and chicken tenders extremely satisfying, but the burger fell short and had an industrial-tasting patty with little flavor and an odd shape. All of the dishes came with French fries, which were undistinguished.

Soon it was movie time.  “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” is the third installment in the “Harry Potter” series of movies.

Especially compared to the first two Harry Potter movies, “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets,” “Azkaban” dispenses with a literal reading of Rowling’s book and achieves great emotional force and visual panache.  The wizard’s world in “Azkaban” is not as neat, perhaps far more dangerous, more enchanted, and far more real than the earlier films, which had been directed by Chris Columbus, while “Azkaban” was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The film takes us out of the classrooms of Hogwarts and into the real world, well for wizards at any rate, with shadowy forests that would have done Hänsel and Gretel proud. Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson seem far more engaged and engaging in their roles as Harry, Ron, and Hermione (each playing the role for the third time) and the three seem as if Cuarón had used a special incantation on them to achieve the screen magic.

BOTTOM LINE

While this was not my first outdoor movie, it was my first drive-in movie; the same goes for my companion.  We had a magical time and plan to return again.

THE DETAILS

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Bayville Drive-In Movie Theater
8 Bayville Avenue
Bayville, New York 11709
www.bayvilleadventurepark.com/

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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