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Drive-in movies go ‘Back to the Future’ Thursday night

“Back to the Future” is a movie about time-traveling to the 1950s, so it is perhaps an appropriate choice to bring back drive-ins.

The Sara-Placid in Ray Brook closed in 1974, to the sadness of many who remember it fondly. There was also the Tupper Lake Drive-In Theatre — later called Tupper’s Drive-In Theatre and Shaheen’s Drive-In — on state Route 3 on the east side of town; the last advertisement for it found in the Tupper Lake Free Press archives on Historic NYS Newspapers is from 1970.

On Thursday night, Tucker Farms in Gabriels will temporarily take their place, using a 4-acre field where the farm didn’t plant potatoes last year. The two-hour film will start at 8 p.m., a few minutes before sunset.

Eric Wilson of Good Guy Productions said his company is getting a custom-made, 15-by-24-foot screen, similar to what he uses for the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival slide show. He hopes this will begin a series of outdoor movies all over the area this summer.

“We want to do one in each town in the Tri-Lakes,” he said Monday.

He’s starting at Tucker Farms because he and Tom Tucker have been talking about it for two-and-a-half months, since the coronavirus lockdown began.

The sound for the movie will be broadcast with a low-power transmitter, and attendees can tune in their car radios to hear it.

The cost will be $10 per carload of people. Rights to screen a non-recent movie typically cost about $350, Wilson said.

The Paul Smiths-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department will manage parking, keeping each vehicle 6 feet apart. Its members will also walk around selling sealed drinks and snacks to people in cars. Attendees will be asked not to leave their vehicles.

“We may have more than we can really deal with,” Wilson said. “It’d be a good problem to have too many people.”

This will be a trial run for other outdoor movies he plans to screen with various partners and at various venues, none of which has been nailed down yet. For now he’s looking at drive-in movies, but he hopes that later in the summer people will be able to watch them on blankets.

His event business has been devastated this summer, and he said it’s terrible to hear about cancellations of summer programs such as youth sports and the Saranac Lake Youth Activities Program.

“These poor kids, what are they going to do?” he said. “I’ll do what I can to try to keep em entertained a little bit.”

“Back to the Future” was the highest-grossing movie of 1985, starring Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as eccentric scientist Doc Brown.

It also gave a landmark role to James Tolkan, a current Lake Placid resident, as overzealous school principal Mr. Stickland.

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