Four Brothers Drive-In Updates the Classic
By Jamie Larson
The drive-in movie theater experience is back in a whole new way in Amenia, NY. With a style that’s classic nostalgia crossed with rustic modern, community events in the daylight, a progressive slate of movies beyond the blockbuster and a full restaurant menu, two sons of the Four Brothers Pizza Inn dynasty are redefining what a drive-in can and should be.
“We wanted to build a drive-in that’s classic Americana but with some modern elements,” says John Stephanopoulos, who runs the Four Brothers Drive In with brother Paul, both sons of William and nephews of the other three founding Brothers. “People can relate to it no matter what their age. We wanted to make it a place you could come and hang out with your family or on a date.”
Paul and John Stephanopoulos, (Images courtesy of John Stephanopoulos)
Though the idea of a drive-in may be old, the two brothers’ execution at their year-old drive-in is keenly in tune with a modern regional aesthetic. There’s unapologetic kitsch and whimsical elements that let you know you’re in movie land, but by using a lot of rustic materials and reclaimed vintage signage and decor, the design comes across as intentional, knowing and sophisticatedly irreverent.
John is primarily responsible for creating the flashy yet unified design elements that make up the look of the place and the drive-in’s attractive web and social media presence. With a master’s degree in accounting, his impressive execution of the drive-in’s branding is a testament to his personal love of art and the style elements he’s seen while traveling. Once you learn he has an affinity for Miami, the vibrant Art Deco lines and colors at the drive-in begin to wink out at you.
“We tried to make it subtle,” John says. “We want to bring you to a place in time. We find that a lot of people come here early and end up hanging out for a long time.”
On weekend days, the drive-in hosts community events. They offer live music, a farmers’ market and kids’ activities including pony rides, magicians and clowns. John says people sometimes show up in the afternoon and stay until the end of the last showing. They even hosted a wedding once, and after the sun went down on the reception — catered by the restaurant — the party watched a scary movie.
The one-screen theater is on a lot right beside the true family business, the Armenia Four Brother’s Restaurant. One of the most distinguishing aspects of the drive-in is that, along with expected fare from the snack bar, the theater encourages visitors to get any item from the entire Four Brothers menu — and it’s served by a car hop. “If you want, you can get an all-organic fruit smoothie from the concession stand and a chicken parm from the restaurant brought right to your car,” John says.
Did we mention they show movies? They’re doing that their own way, too. The Stephanopoulos family is in a uniquely independent position when it comes to showing movies. Because the drive-in was conceived to bring people to the restaurant, rather than having its success tied heavily to ticket sales alone, they can do things other drive-ins can’t, like show two top-billed movies on their opening weekend in a double feature. They also do special screenings of independent movies and host a hugely successful “Throwback Thursday” night where they show older movies.
John and Paul’s patriarchs, the four Stephanopoulos brothers, often told their children that one of the first things they did when they came to America in the 1970s was go to the drive-in. They had a dream in the back of their minds that someday they would open their own.
Now, the next generation of the successful family has made that dream a reality, honoring the past and looking to the future with style.
Four Brothers Drive-In
4957 Route 22, Amenia, NY
Mon - Thu: 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Fri - Sun: 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.