Oct. 7: Malta Drive-In Theatre, Malta NY

It’s Day 280 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It was nice to have a really short drive for a change, barely 40 minutes from the Hollywood Drive-In Theatre, northwest of Averill Park NY, to the Malta Drive-In Theatre, in Malta NY of course.

Out in front, the Malta has its own historical marker. It reads: Malta Drive-In Signs / Open-air theater started in 1949 by Sarto and Leona Smaldone, drive-In purchased in 1988 by brothers Ed and Tom Caro, in operation for over 50 years.

But that’s not all the history we can find for this drive-in, which opened as a single-screen. There’s a gold mine of information in the Saratogian‘s 2006 obituary for Leona. Her sons Bill and Ron said “that their mother had as much or more to do with building the drive-in as their father.” Bill said it took a lot of work to fill in the field off Route 9 and level it for the drive-in. His mother was out there every day, directing workers and driving the project even when Sarto became discouraged. Sarto, who was mayor of Saratoga Springs for two terms (1970-73), passed away in 2002 at the age of 97.

The Smaldones sold the Malta in 1977, and the Caros are the drive-in’s third owner. So who was in the middle for at least a decade and didn’t rate a mention on the marker? Christopher Bietka was the manager in a June 1986 newspaper article. That’s the only clue I could find.

So now we turn to the current owners, brothers Tom and Ed Caro. Before purchasing the Malta, Ed managed the Greenville (NY) Drive-In. After they bought the Malta, the brothers built a second, year-round business adjacent to the drive-in, The Furniture Theater, that was active until just a few years ago. They added a second screen for the 2008 season, and Tom told the Saratogian, “A business that’s been doing the same thing for almost 60 years to almost double itself is exciting.” They also increased the restroom size to handle the additional customers.

The next major change came after the 2012 season when the Malta upgraded to digital projection. In an interview with the Ballston Journal, Ed said they had to insulate both projection booths and hook up to the internet. With the new equipment in place, the Malta is ready for more decades of continuous operation. “We’re committed to running the drive-in for a long time.”

The YouTube video of the day is a time capsule of a visit to the Malta in 2003 when it still had just a single screen. Though I must caution you, if anyone asks how old you are, tell the truth, okay?

I was really excited about seeing the Blade Runner sequel on its opening weekend. Add some standard concession stand snacks and a bottle of Saratoga sparking water, and I was ready for a great Saturday night at the show.

Miles Today / Total: 33 / 32643 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Blade Runner 2049 / 176

Nearby Restaurant: At Carson’s Woodside Tavern, the view is as important as the food. With a fireplace inside, the windows looking out at Saratoga Lake provide a great atmosphere, although the college football on the TVs also caught my attention. For lunch I had a simple turkey and swiss sandwich and a tossed salad. And a beer, because this is a tavern after all.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I found another one of those hotels set up for folks to stay a couple of weeks or one nights. The Home2 Suites in Malta provides full kitchenettes in the rooms, a patio with a fire pit, an indoor pool, and a combination laundry / workout room. The breakfast bar in the morning was an interesting take on the standard hotel provisions.

Only in Malta: In nearby Saratoga Springs, where the Malta’s founder was mayor, they have the Saratoga horse racing track and the long-titled National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. There are statues of Secretariat and Seabiscuit and a long row of those little jockey statues, each with different colors. It’s a great place to look around, as long as you like horse racing.

Next stop: El Rancho Drive-In Theatre, Palatine Bridge NY.

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