Oct. 13: Bay Drive-In Theatre, Alexandria Bay NY

Screen at the Bay Drive-In at sunset

Photo from the Bay Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 286 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I hugged the St. Lawrence River for an hour and a half as I drove upstream from the 56 Auto Drive-in Theater, just southwest of Massena NY, to the Bay Drive-In Theatre in Alexandria Bay NY.

The drive-in’s web site used to have an excellent history page, now available via the Internet Archive. Much of the information here comes from that site, though I’ve also found several pieces to supplement it.

The Bay was built in 1968, and several sites say it was to replace the 1000 Islands Drive-In that was overrun by a new highway cloverleaf, although that’s five miles away from the Bay. The International Motion Picture Almanacs for 1969 through 1976 listed both the Bay and the 1000 Islands, so they either competed for a few years or the IMPA didn’t notice that the old drive-in had shut down.

According to the Thousand Island Sun’s grand opening article, hosted on New York Drive-Ins, recent Alexandria Bay mayor Willard Beach led the corporation that built the Bay. The article said the drive-in would have “the latest in projection and sound equipment” and “will be handling brand new pictures during July and August … due to this being a tourist area the corporation is entitled to first-run movies.”

The Wade family bought the Bay in 1982, and had to work to get first-run movies back. By 1992, with first-run movies being shown again and patronage on the rise, they rebuilt and enlarged the concession stand, adding a 60-seat indoor viewing section.

In the wee hours of July 15, 1995, a severe thunderstorm “demolished” the drive-in, according to the Watertown Daily Times. The theatre was extensively damaged including the building roof structure and the face of the screen. Within 9 days the theatre was back in full operation.

The Alexandria Bay town planning board approved a second screen in March 1997, but it wasn’t built until July 1999. The second field’s layout is unusual because of the lot being only diagonally adjacent to the original. The Bay added a second concession stand in 2001 for the second screen; it sold Pepsi products while the main concessions sold Coke products. Restrooms for the second screen were added in 2006.

There’s a pretty good video at the Spectrum News of Northern NY from December 2015, when unseasonably warm weather and unreasonably strong enthusiasm prompted the Bay to show the latest Star Wars installment during the holiday season. I’m sorry that I couldn’t embed it here, but I recommend you go watch it anyway.

The movie this night wasn’t Star Wars, but it was one I hadn’t seen yet. On a cool mid-October night with rain threatening, it was still worth it to watch something new to me.

Miles Today / Total: 70 / 33068 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: American Made / 178

Nearby Restaurant: Coffee Pot Cathy’s was an easy walk from the Otter Creek Inn (see below), and the name lured me over. There was basic breakfast diner food in the morning to go with the coffee, plus a really nice cheese danish. I think I need more coffee with that!

Where I Virtually Stayed: There are plenty of very nice, slightly quirky resorts in Alexandria Bay, and the Otter Creek Inn is one of them. It’s a quiet place right next to the water, so the views are great. My room had a fridge, which I always appreciate, and coffee in the morning. With breakfast restaurants within walking distance, coffee was all I needed to get there.

Only in Alexandria Bay: In the middle of the St. Lawrence River on Heart Island just across from Alexandria Bay is Boldt Castle, a six story, 120 room Rhineland reproduction built in 1900 by hotelier George Boldt for his wife. When she died in early 1904, Boldt halted work on the castle, which fell into disrepair until purchased by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. Access is available only by boat.

Next stop: Black River Drive In, Watertown NY.

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