Oct. 6: Hollywood Drive-In Theatre, Averill Park NY

Hollywood Drive-In marquee with a rainbow in the background

Photo from the Hollywood Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 279 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. It took over an hour and a half to drive from Barkhamsted CT to the Hollywood Drive-In Theatre, northwest of Averill Park NY.

I’ve been sweating out different drive-ins’ histories for weeks. This time, I’ll let the Hollywood’s own History page tell the story, with only a bit of my editing.

The Hollywood Drive-In Theater is located on (NY State) Route 66 just eight miles outside of Troy. The theater was built in 1952 by the late James Fisher who oversaw the operation for the next 16 years.

In the beginning James, his wife, Beatrice, and son Frank kept the theater open year round. It ran seven nights a week in the spring and summer months and on weekends September through May. For the colder weather the theater offered heaters for the cars at no charge. The heaters plugged into the side of the speaker pole.

In 1968 Frank took over the business from his father and still enjoys running it to this day. He has learned everything from the projectors to the concessions when he was just a teenager, working with his father and through trial and error, and has improved the theater tremendously from those early days.

The theater began with two pre-1950’s carbon arc projectors which held 2000 foot reels. Then came 6000 foot reels and the projectors had to be reconditioned to handle the larger reels. After that the projectors were changed to Xenon which gave off a more brilliant light, and they added a platter system.

As of April 2012 the theatre has converted to a digital projection system with Dolby digital sound, projected onto a 36- by 88-foot screen. In 1952 the theater held 250 cars but has expanded over the years and now can accommodate approximately 400 cars.

I’m back. To read more about the Hollywood, you could read Frank’s 2009 interview with All Over Albany, where he said, “The drive-ins that are open are as popular today as they used to be. There was a time in the 70’s when it was really, really bad — when a drive in couldn’t get first-run movies. They got a bad name somewhere along the line. But the nostalgia kind of brought them back.”

About the only thing I couldn’t find for the Hollywood was a good video. I was happy to be able to visit on its final Friday of the season. Too bad it doesn’t stay open all year any more.

Miles Today / Total: 77 / 32610 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: The Lego Ninjago Movie / 175

Nearby Restaurant: About halfway between the Hollywood and Troy is what is probably the closest restaurant, Paolo Lombardi’s Ristorante in Wynantskill. It’s a solid white linen Italian restaurant with a wide variety of dishes. I was tempted by the filet mignon but figured that pasta would be Paolo’s specialty, so I picked the parmesan chicken. That worked great for me.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I think the closest hotel to the Hollywood is the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy. Since I was happy to find an HGI close by, I’ll stick to that explanation. There was a fireplace in the lobby to greet me from the seasonal autumn air. My room had the full complement of modern amenities. The very nice HGI breakfast buffet was included because I’m a Gold level Hiltoner. Good stuff!

Only in Averill Park: Samuel Wilson (1766-1854) was a meat packer from Troy just up the highway. His name is purportedly the source of the personification of the United States known as “Uncle Sam,” according to Wikipedia. During the War of 1812, his company supplied a few thousand barrels of meat to soldiers stationed nearby. They knew of Wilson and his local nickname and started calling the barrels, marked E.A.-U.S., property of Uncle Sam, and it just snowballed from there.

Next stop: Malta Drive-In Theatre, Malta NY.