It’s All About the Experience

This review was published in a newspaper supplement by The Lakeville Journal Co. in June 2015.

The supplement features the town of Amenia, NY.

Republished with permission, copyright The Lakeville Journal Company, LLC, 2015.


Patrons at the Four Brothers Drive In socialize and snack at the theater's concession shack before and between flicks.

Patrons at the Four Brothers Drive In socialize and snack at the theater’s concession shack before and between flicks.

I went to the Four Brothers Drive In on its opening night this season for a regular assignment.

Interview the owner. Take some photos. Interview some patrons. Take more photos.

Sometimes as a reporter I get to cross work and leisure. I like what I do: meeting new people, gaining new experiences and knowledge every day — it’s fresh and I’m fortunate to choose many stories I like.

However, rarely in my journalistic career is the spectrum of work and enjoyment so crossed that I return to the site of an assignment not as a reporter but on a date.

I pride myself on staying objective when reporting news, but I couldn’t help but be impressed on opening night.

John Stefanopoulos (part-owner of this Amenia drive-in movie theater with his brother, Paul) hurried to me right as I parked, radiating scattered enthusiasm for his project much faster than I could take notes.

John and Paul are the sons of William Stefanopoulos — one owner of the Four Brothers restaurant chain along the Hudson Valley. The drive-in sprawls off the northern patio of the Four Brothers in town.

John had recently overcome a tussle with Amenia’s zoning code, just in time to reopen for business.

Movie-goers enjoy the show from the comfort and privacy of their cars.

Movie-goers enjoy the show from the comfort and privacy of their cars.

Last summer amid its first full season, the drive-in was cited for site plan violation and appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals to defend itself.

A packed Town Hall auditorium and a petition filled with thousands of signatures stood behind the Four Brothers gang as John made a case for ambient signage that prompted the citation.

Long story short, there were signs on site outside of the town’s restrictive code. Four Brothers was in violation, but Amenia was in need of reform, according to the people.

The two parties came to a compromise and the drive-in glimmered with triumph opening night — not only from signs but from the faces of happy residents.

Local musicians, like Josh Driver, pictured above, from opening night, kick off entertainment on weekends before the screenings begin at sunset.

Local musicians, like Josh Driver, pictured above, from opening night, kick off entertainment on weekends before the screenings begin at sunset.

On opening night and even more so on my date I understood what all the fuss was about.

The Stefanopouloses have gone above and beyond to create the ultimate customer experience, radiating the same enthusiasm John showed me opening night into every facet of the business.

Accommodation seems to be the family’s top priority because I felt at home at the drive-in. There’s a concession shack with delicious food, a double feature every night even if just one customer drives up and a delightful nostalgia locals and visitors can share.

When I told John my car radio was unreliable, he disappeared and returned with two portable FM radios — just in case my girlfriend wanted one too.
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