Massena’s Route 56 Auto Drive-In going digital this summer; $100,000 upgrade planned
Monday, May 26, 2014 - 8:39 am

By ANDY GARNDER

LOUISVILLE -- The Route 56 Auto Drive-In Theater is upgrading from traditional reel-to-reel films to digital after Memorial Day weekend.

"It will be a big improvement … the picture will be brighter and the sound will be awesome," J.S. Cinemas president Jeff Szot said. His company owns the drive-in.

The transition should be seamless, with no interruptions to movie showings, according to Szot.

The company is investing $100,000 for upgrades. Of that, $80,000 will finance the new digital projector and $20,000 will go into on-site repairs and maintenance, which is to include the restrooms, according to Szot.

The new projector will allow the drive-in to showcase more than just first-run films. He said they will be able to link into events like live simulcasts. In June, Jimmy Buffett will play a show at a Texas drive-in that will be live simulcast to other U.S. drive-ins, but they won't be ready in time to get in on it.

Szot said he bought the drive-in sometime in the early or mid-1980s.

According to newyorkdriveins.com, it opened on July 22, 1955. An article on the site from the July 21, 1955 edition of the Massena Observer says it was built by Peter Papyanakas of Potsdam, who also operated the Rialto theater in his hometown.

Papyanakas used fill dug out during construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, according to Szot.

The article says the first two movies to show there were "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Loure. Also showing at the theater's premier was the "Olympic Elk," a Walt Disney film, according to the Massena Observer story.

Until the early or mid-1990s, the theater had the old-fashioned speakers that moviegoers would hang on their vehicle's windows. Nowadays, attendees tune in to the soundtrack on their vehicle's radio.

The theater is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, showtimes are at dusk. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $3.50 for children ages 4 to 12 and children ages 3 and under get in free. Admission covers a double-feature.