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Black River Drive-in
Status: Operating seasonally from early April to mid October
Location: 28035 Rte 3 at Rte 342, Watertown, NY 13601
Website: www.blackriverdrivein.com
Phone: 315-773-8604
Screens: 1
Capacity: 550 cars
Original owner: Sylvan Leff; operated later by Anthony Kolinski & Charles Girard; currently operated by John Nagelschmidt & Loren Knapp.
Opening date: August 18, 1950
 

This page was last updated on January 2, 2010.

The Black River Drive-in Theatre was built by Sylvan Leff, opening on August 18, 1950. Leff operated the drive-in into the early 70's at which time he leased the Black River to Panther Theatres, that subsequently became Country Wide Theatres. They operated the drive-in for a couple of years and then sold it to ATKO Canton Corp., out of Syracuse, that was owned by Charles Girrard and Anthony Kolinski. ATKO Canton operated several theatres including seven drive-ins across the northeast, including both the Starlite and Northside drive-ins in Watertown and the Midway Drive-in in Minetto.

Atko Canton operated the Black River until the mid-1980s, when they leased it to Jeff Szot, who currently operates the 56 Auto Drive-in located in Massena. Jeff operated the Black River for just one season. After closing in the fall, a fire badly damaged the concession building.

The Black River remained closed for about the next 20 years.

In the mid-1990s John Nagelschmidt, who owns and operates the Midway Drive-in in Minetto, purchased the Black River from Kolinski & Girrard. The long closure prohibited the drive-in's reopening until newer Health codes for water and sewer could be met.

When the Town of LeRay had the foresight to bring water and sewer service to the area, it made reopening the Black River Drive-in feasible. In August of 2005, John Nagelschmidt, and Loren Knapp, who was the long time projectionist at the Midway Drive-in, together formed Black River Drive-in, Inc. John and Loren worked diligently from that point on seeking various permits and approvals for rebuilding the drive-in practically from the ground up. On August 18, 2006 the Black River Drive-in Theatre reopened its doors to the public.

-- Courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com

 

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Topo Map from 1982, courtesy of TerraServer USA. Aerial image from 1994, courtesy of TerraServer USA. Aerial image from 2006, courtesy of Google Earth. Aerial close-up image from 2006, courtesy of Google Earth.
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Grand opening article from the Watertown Daily Times on August 17, 1950. Free preview show tonight ad from the Watertown Daily Times on August 17, 1950. Grand opening tonight FULL PAGE ad from the Watertown Daily Times on August 18, 1950. Black River Drive-in marquee in 2005.
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Black River Drive-in ticket booth in 2005, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in snackbar in 2005, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in screen and snackbar in 2005, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in screen in 2005, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com.
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Black River Drive-in ticket booth in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in snackbar in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in screen and snackbar in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in screen in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com.
Click on image to view at full size. Click on image to view at full size. Click on image to view at full size. Click on image to view at full size.
Black River Drive-in marquee in 2009, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in snackbar in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in snackbar in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com. Black River Drive-in projection booth in 2006, courtesy of BlackRiverDrivein.com.

 

 

 

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The Black River was abandoned for many, many years and was reopened just a few seasons ago. Great history and pics on their site.
#1 - Joe Masher - 09/12/2008 - 13:34
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