Mix pizza, popcorn and beer with movies and bands, toss in your wheels, and you have a winning combination of the nostalgic drive-in experience with today’s modern amenities. That is exactly what the Andelman Brothers, of Phantom Gourmet fame, have done with the Mendon Twin Drive-In.
Over the past few years, the Andelman clan engaged in conversation with the owners of the Mendon Twin Drive-In, discussing their interest in purchasing one of just three drive-ins left in Massachusetts and of a few hundred nationwide. Drive-in theaters were once all the rage, but have since become far less commonplace. Keeping the Mendon Twin Drive-In going strong was a venture that proved to be right up the alley of the Andelman brothers – Dave and Dan (who regularly host Phantom Gourmet) and Michael (who occasionally appears on the show).
The drive-in has a special meaning to the family, as the brothers frequently enjoyed watching movies there while growing up. Last winter, the sale came to fruition. “It was very gratifying to us when we bought it,” Dave Andelman said. “We were not really prepared for how excited people were going to be that it was us.”
A modern touch on nostalgia
With that excitement comes great expectation, Andelman noted, acknowledging that people had high hopes that he and his brothers would really put their name on the drive-in, and that they have. “We are putting our heart and soul into it,” he said.
The brothers spent the entire off-season making revisions and enhancements to the 61-year-old theater. “I think either me or one of my brothers has been there every night since we took it over,” said Andelman. “It’s a labor of love.”
The brothers’ hard work and business acumen are evident throughout the establishment. The nearly 16-acre property has been updated to include a new sound system, patio and beer garden. Plus, the Phantom Gourmet flair takes center stage with a new menu chock-full of classic options and newer mouthwatering treats. These changes were completed with the idea of making it easier for people to simply relax and enjoy themselves.
“Why inconvenience people by making them stop and get pizza?” Andelman asked. “Why not serve it fresh, hot right there?” Other tasty goodies include hamburgers, mac and cheese bites, eight sodas, red wine and white wine. In addition, soft pretzels and popcorn are prepared on site.
An entertainment hot spot
With a penchant for entertainment, the brothers are doing all they can to make the Mendon Twin Drive-In not just a place for evening movies, but a hub where families can push the worries of the world aside and enjoy classic, affordable fun. While the drive-in is often thought of as an iconic place to take a date, this establishment is clearly more than that. “You see families with kids in their pajamas; you see older couples who have been doing it for 50 years,” Andelman said. “It feels like a cruise ship. Just everyone has the best time.”
Last year, the theater featured several Jimmy Buffet satellite concerts to entertain young and old visitors alike. Recently, the Mendon Twin Drive-In was a closed-circuit site for the UFC 186. Those who are firm believers that an event worth going to has food like no other will likely be drawn to the upcoming Junk Food Jam over Labor Day weekend. “We just want interesting, fun things going on there all the time,” Andelman said.
Longtime fans of the Mendon Twin Drive-In may notice the tree-lined property will host guests more often than in the past. “Instead of using it 600 hours a year, let’s try – if we can – a few thousand hours a year,” Andelman said. One way the property will be put to greater use is when a wedding is held on the site in the fall.
An all-star cast
It’s important to note it’s not just the Andelman brothers pumping life into the Mendon Twin Drive-In. The whole production involves a workforce of energetic adults and teenagers with the goal of making the establishment one of the most-loved entertainment venues around. In fact, a sign in the staff lounge reads, “Let’s work together to make this the most fun, best run drive-in in the nation.” Andelman said the crew would be disappointed if they fell short of that goal when the drive-in closes for the season this fall.
Want to check out the action? The Mendon Twin Drive-In is located at 35 Milford St., Mendon. Admission is $25 per vehicle for up to six people. For more information, visit MendonDriveIn.com.
By Maxine Giza