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Back to the drive-in

Local drive-in movies planned all summer long

People in vehicles watch “Back to the Future” in May 2020 at Tucker Farms in Gabriels. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Drive-in movies are back, and so is the “Back to the Future” franchise.

It’s been 371 days since an audience seated in 230 cars at Tucker Farms saw Doc and Marty fly off toward the date Oct. 21, 2015, at the end of “Back to the Future” (1985). On Friday, they’ll be able to catch up with the time-traveling duo in the sequel “Back to the Future II” (1989) which will be screened at Tucker Farms at 8:30 p.m.

Eric Wilson of Good Guy Productions said the drive-in movies they started last year during the pandemic were such a hit they decided to bring them back this summer.

Future shows

On Saturday, June 5 they’ll screen “The Sandlot” at the Tupper Lake Municipal Park near where Tupper Lake’s new professional baseball team the Riverpigs will take the field against the New Hampshire Wild in its season opening game on home field June 12.

Wilson said he hopes the movie about a scrappy group of young baseballers gets people excited to see the pros in action.

This one will be a fundraiser for the State Theater, Tupper Lake’s cinema, which lost its computer servers for both screens during the pandemic and is fundraising for replacements.

Wilson said attendees should stop by the State Theater on their way to buy refreshments and snack, and bring a baseball glove for a game of catch before the movie.

He hopes everyone enjoys the iconic line, “You’re killing me, Smalls.”

Then, on June 12 they’ll screen the new movie “Tom and Jerry” in Jay. The movie was released in February, but Good Guy already got the rights to show it.

Asked how this happened Wilson said, “No idea. We asked, and they said, ‘Yes, it’s OK.’ Not sure why the studios have allowed this, but … theaters are struggling right now. People are not going to the movies yet. Maybe that’s it.”

Good Guy Productions started the drive-in movies during the pandemic last year. At that time it was some of the only entertainment allowed with the COVID-19 restrictions. But the appetite for drive-in films has remained strong even as the virus’ hold on the North Country has waned.

Wilson created a Facebook page called “The Big Screen Drive-In Movie,” which now has 1,500 people following it. He said they’ve been inundated with messages from people asking if they’d do it again.

After the first few shows last year Wilson said he was thinking about a quote from “Jaws:” “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” So they built a bigger screen — 28 by 38 feet. Wilson said it takes 10 to 12 people to put the screen up.

Rules and prices

The rules for drive-in movies have loosened up since last year. Wilson said people will be able to sit outside of their cars, and the first 40 feet in front of the screen will be for people in lawn chairs and blankets.

“If you’re vaccinated, we’re giving you a front-row seat,” he said.

People who are not vaccinated can sit out there, too, but will have to social distance.

They’ll stream audio over an FM transmitter for people staying in their cars and through speakers for people sitting in front of the screen.

Tickets cost $5 per person or $20 per carload. Wilson said they don’t make any money from these drive-in movies. After their expenses for the movie, the screens and setup, the rest of the money goes to a sponsoring organization. He said he doesn’t mind helping out a local group and providing affordable entertainment.

“Sometimes getting paid in seeing 2,000 people smiling and watching a movie was the biggest paycheck I could have had,” Wilson said.

Friday’s tickets will go toward the Paul Smith-Gabriels Volunteer Fire Department, which is helping set up the screening area.

While screening “Grease” in Plattsburgh last year, he walked through the parking lot and heard people singing “You’re the One that I Want.”

“That was so cool,” he said.

He wants to bring “Grease” to Tucker Farms this year. He also said people have been asking him to screen a horror flick. He said he might plan a double-feature, because he doesn’t want to lose his family-friendly atmosphere.

Wilson also said he’s been talking with Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers about doing a drive-in movie/vaccination clinic.

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