The drive-in movie is making a comeback, in large part due to the availability of inflatable screens and equipment that can be installed in almost any location. Photo: Outdoor Movies Inc.

Riverhead Raceway got permission on a trial basis to have drive-in movie nights this summer.

The town board this afternoon gave its blessing to two outdoor movie showings, on Friday, June 17 and Friday, July 1. Riverhead Raceway had sought approval of outdoor movies nearly every Friday this summer, from June 17 through Sept. 2, but the board balked at that idea due to concerns about light and noise impacts on the neighboring Glenwood Village residential community. After conferring with the owner of Glenwood Village, officials decided to grant permission for the first two dates to see how it goes.

Addressing the board before its vote, Glenwood owner Brian Stark expressed concern today about “a change of use” at the raceway by allowing it to show outdoor movies.

The raceway has been “a very good neighbor and we’ve been able to peacefully co-exist for 50 years,” Stark said. “We love the racetrack. I don’t want to put the racetrack out of business.”

“The big thing is sound,” he said. “I’ve been assured the sound [for the movies] will be through an AM/FM transmitter.

There won’t be any outdoor speakers, said Frank Zagarino of Movies in the Moonlight, which will be handling the movies at Riverhead Raceway. The sound will only be heard on car stereos within the vehicles, via an FM transmitter, Zagarino said.

“We will position the screen so when people leave their headlights aren’t going toward Mr. Stark’s property. We’re doing everything we can not to disturb the neighbors.”

During a work session discussion of a special event application filed by the raceway for 10 movie nights, Supervisor Sean Walter expressed concern about the application being made as a special event permit application, as opposed to a site plan application. A site plan application allows the town to review and approve the placement of things like the inflatable movie screen on the site and how vehicles are parked and will move about the site.

“It may be that you would have to apply for site plan approval if this is going to be an ongoing thing,” Walter told Riverhead Raceway co-owner Tom Gatz.

Gatz said after the meeting today that the track owners want to try the outdoor movies as an additional source of revenue during the limited summer season in which the facility can operate.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended post-publication to reflect a corrected date for the second drive-in movie night. It will be July 1, not June 24 as originally stated.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.