Longtime Queens Diner Shifts Gears, Becomes Drive-In Movie Theater for Charity

Wednesday's movie was Dirty Dancing, and featured a menu to match

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One Queens diner is turning back the clock and hoping a blast from the past can help raise money for those helping in the fight against COVID-19.

The Bel Aire Diner in Astoria has been a neighborhood favorite for more than 50 years, and owner Kalergis Dellaportas wants to keep it that way — by getting creative in these challenging times. The eatery has turned into a pop-up drive-in movie theater, welcoming as many cars as can fit into the limited number of parking spots.

"How can we utilize our space, keep people safe, bring people to the diner without really bringing people to the diner, and possibly do something for the community," said Dellaportas. "I've never experienced a (drive-in), so personally this is amazing, you know, having something like this out here."

The owner and the staff of the diner announced the first drive-in showing on social media, allowing people to RSVP virtually. It booked up fast, and the idea has quickly become a huge hit with the help of a local entertainment company.

"Excellent turnout, packed out night, it was fantastic and from there it just spread like wildfire, where now we're looking at doing 5, 6, 7 events a week," said William Bruner, who owns LI Movie Nights.

Wednesday's movie was Dirty Dancing, and featured a menu to match.

The diner suggests movie-goers give $20 donations, with the proceeds going toward first responders. An easy decision for locals like Rose Dionicio, who despite being too young to remember the glory days of drive-in theaters, says it's just the break a family needs during trying times.

"We're at a drive-in at a diner, which is pretty cool," said Dionicio. "It can be pretty crazy at times having everyone at home, so having this as a little bit of an escape is really nice."

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