By CRAIG FREILICH
CANTON -- The big white screen is gone and a "For Sale" sign is out in front of the former Ideal Drive-In movie theater on Gouverneur Street just south of Canton, but the record of its heyday remains online.
Aerial photos, and old newspaper advertisements and stories about the Ideal can still be viewed at www.newyorkdriveins.com/northcountryregion/ideal/ideal.php The site says the Ideal Drive-In opened in 1950 and closed in 1986.
North Country movie “mogul” Jeff Szot noted recently that even the steel framework that held the Ideal Drive-In’s screen has been torn down, but says the disappearing drive-ins won’t be forgotten.
Drive-in theaters were mainly a post-World War II phenomenon, when great growth in automobile ownership literally changed the landscape, with roads being built and improved everywhere, and new residential neighborhoods popping up along the roads, and large lots were cleared and screens were put up to show movies to families with babies and groups of friends who could sit in the comfort of their own vehicles to watch a movie and not worry about talking among themselves.
But the demand dropped off as cable TV began to offer similar convenience to movie watchers.
Szot owns the only surviving drive-in in St. Lawrence County, the 56 Auto Drive-In just outside of Massena, along with indoor theaters Massena Movieplex, the Canton American Theater, and the Roxy Theater in Potsdam.
Szot said the Ideal was known as “‘a bit of heaven on Route 11,’ and there was also another one many years ago in Canton called the Sunset.”
Other web pages that preserve the legacy of drive-in theaters, including The Ideal, include http://www.newyorkdriveins.com/northcountryregion/counties/stlawrence/stlawrence.html It has links to stories about other outdoor theaters in St. Lawrence County.
And there are some photos at http://www.drive-ins.com/theater/nytidea.