By Rich Lascelles
The Litchfield Drive-in Theater
Known far and wide-but nobody from Litchfield Ever Went There!
For about twenty years from the 60s to the 80s, there was a thriving business in Litchfield that was known far and wide. Yes, the Litchfield Drive-in was known for the best (or worst, depending on your
point of view) pornographic movies from the combat zone in Boston to St. Catherine Street in Montreal. In the “Debbie Does Dallas” series the drive-in showed “Debbie Does the Whole State of Texas plus Arkansas and Oklahoma”.
Ironically, the drive-in was smack dab in the middle of a residential area right on Talent Road, which out- of-towners thought was very descriptive of the acting; It was actually named for an old Litchfield Family.
Through the years, the neighbors and the owner, a Mrs. Theresa DuFault, had their share of battles having to do with traffic, trash, and the visibility of the screen. There was a very tall, 30 or 40 feet, fence around the facility but neighborhood kids did their best to sneak a peek by finding holes in the fence or by climbing trees to watch the action. At least a couple of times, the town fathers attempted to rein in the business by passing ordinances to prohibit “X” rated movies, etc.
In 1972, the State Police raided a performance, Mrs. DuFault was arrested and the film was confiscated. I remember in a town meeting in the early 80s someone suggested (somewhat tongue in cheek) turning Talent Road into a toll road. But in each case, charges were thrown out or ordinances were declared unlawful and “the show went on”. Mrs. DuFault felt she provided a public service by providing a form of “marriage counseling”.
One thing was certain, people from all over New England and beyond regularly patronized the drive-in. One neighbor remembers seeing limousines from Connecticut and official government cars from Massachusetts waiting in line to get in. Cars would arrive hours before the gate opened to ensure their spot. In some cases, after all slots were filled, customers would wait outside hoping someone would leave. Litchfield Police Chief David Campbell regularly took tickets at the gate and was usually joined by another police officer to control security and keep the kids out. On busy weekends, a police officer was stationed on route 3-A to keep traffic from backing up. For the most part, there were very few problems. Mrs. DuFault tried to be a good citizen by allowing the police department and the fire department to solicit for local functions, which provided a windfall for them. She even sponsored a Litchfield Little. League team; although the league didn’t put “Litchfield Drive-in” on the uniforms they simply said “Mrs. DuFault”.
Mrs. DuFault died tragically when her house burned in the early 80s. Her children tried to keep the business going after her death but the advent of VCRs took away the competitive advantage of the drive-
in. An attempt to survive with more “mainstream” movies failed and the era of the drive-in ended. Today the area is filled with single family and duplex homes. I did find one old-timer at the town hall who admitted she went to the drive-in… just once and she left early.
In 1979, your humble correspondent was relocating from southern Connecticut to New Hampshire. When telling Connecticut friends of the move they asked where in New Hampshire. I said a little town,
probably never heard of, Litchfield. A big grin came on the face of the male friend and he exclaimed, “The Drive-in!”