Summer movies: great cinema? No. Fun? Yes.

The Malta, NY drive in. Still screening movies after dark. Photo: Malta Drive In

The Malta, NY drive in. Still screening movies after dark. Photo: Malta Drive In

Remember drive in movie theaters? The good news: they still exist. In fact, six of the remaining 30 or so in NYS are located within the NCPR coverage area, and many others are just outside the station’s reach.

Drive ins are perfect for action and adventure movies, perhaps an animated feature. Nothing too heavy, please.

In general, summer releases–whether for drive in or traditional theater–are fluffier fare than the fall releases as industry moguls jockey for Academy Award shots before year’s end.

So, what’s your favorite summer movie experience? Was it the movie? Was the summer romance associated with a movie what keeps the memory alive? Seems as if horror and monster movies have a leading role in summer offerings.

In my teens, the stand out summer movie experience had to do with the climate more than what was being shown on the screen.

Living in New York City, at a time when only the affluent had air conditioning in their apartments, we’d head to 42nd Street where some of the theaters would show triple-headers for a single ticket price. On a hot, humid afternoon you could enter the cool darkness and not exit until late evening and more moderate outdoor temperatures.

This is how I saw all of the early Clint Eastwood “spaghetti” Westerns (so named because they were largely filmed in Italy or Mexico, with English dubbed in for the supporting cast), plus some great old classics (think Fred Astaire and Alfred Hitchcock’s pre-1960s work).

The Camel billboard in Times Square, 1948. Photo: National Archives, via Wikipedia

The Camel billboard in Times Square, 1948. Photo: National Archives, via Wikipedia

Of course, this was also the time when 42nd Street was synonymous with “pornography” and the sex industry. But there was our more wholesome (mundane?) frequenting of Times Square–relief from the steamy city summer weather. Those air-conditioned theaters cured our hot weather crankiness and saved us from the unremitting discomfit associated with NYC in July and August.

Here’s a video of the iconic Times Square Camel cigarettes billboard in 1964, which went through a  number of permutations through the years.



When I moved to the north country in 1971, there was still, ahem, a porn drive in theater near Massena. Confession: my husband and I, in our early 20s, decided to check it out. Double feature. A couple of bucks a ticket. We left after 15 minutes. Really really really bad.

So, what are your summer movie memories? In the city? the suburbs? out in the country? or, at a drive in?

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3 Responses to “Summer movies: great cinema? No. Fun? Yes.”

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  1. Dale Hobson says:

    We had big station wagons when I was a kid. My favorite drive-in experience (mostly at the long gone Moonlite Drive-in between Potsdam and Norwood) was getting back from a family double feature, folding down the back seat, rolling out the sleeping bag, and camping out in the driveway until Sunday breakfast.

    Another favorite memory is an intense aurora at the drive-in one summer night. Everyone got out of their cars and ignored the movie to watch the light show in the sky. Don’t remember what movie, but I can still see those shimmering curtains of light in my mind.

  2. Sabrina Lauson says:

    My grandmother used to take me to the drive-in outside of Massena because I would always fall asleep half way through the movie : )

  3. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    We also had full sized station wagons when I was growing up and that was the vehicle of choice for drive-in movie watching – spread out the blankets in the back for us kids.

    As a teenager with a drivers license (I think the statute of limitations has run out on this…) I once took my mom’s full sized 1966 Ford 4 door sedan to the drive-in. That car had a huge trunk – could hide at least 3 of my friends in it. Two of us rode in the front seat to a double feature (MASH and Patton) with three of my friends as contraband in the trunk and backed up to the far back of the drive-in. Opened the trunk and everyone piled out and into the car for a long evening of very cheap movie watching.