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Malta Drive-In celebrates 70 years in business

Malta Drive-In celebrates 70 years in business

Popular outdoor movie theater continues to thrive by hosting activities and events to supplement feature film screenings
Malta Drive-In celebrates 70 years in business
Malta Drive-Ins marquee sign on Route 9, as they celebrate 70 years of business in Malta on Sunday
Photographer: Erica Miller / Gazette Photographer

One of the area's oldest drive-in theaters will ring in a massive milestone on Monday.

The Malta Drive-In, located on Route 9 in Malta, will turn 70 on Monday. The iconic outdoor theater, which can be easily seen from the road by its large flashing sign, has been in continuous operation since July 1949.

Ed Caro of Schuylerville, who has owned the 20-acre site with his brother, Tom, since 1988. The drive-in was named a local historic landmark in 2007.

To commemorate the occasion, Ed Caro had blue shirts made boasting the 70 year feat, of which he had already sold 100, he said.

While the drive-in, which boasts two large showing screens, is open from April through October, it's busiest from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  

Photos: Images of the Malta Drive-In at 70

It's been a long road to keeping the drive-in in mint condition, and over the years, the Caro brothers have been continuously making improvements to it, such as installing LED lights in the theater's roadside marquee.

Families that visit the drive-in often can spend the entire night there: Along with showing feature films, Malta Drive-In has a concession stand that not only offers dinner items, including pizza and chicken, but typical movie theater fare, such as candy and popcorn, as well. 

As drive-in theaters have become more and more of a rarity, the Malta Drive-In has done its best to adapt to the changing market by hosting other events and activities that can supplement its flagship drive-in experience.

Among those is a flea market with more than 100 vendors, that will be taking place each Saturday in July. 

Ballston Spa resident Jim O'Connell first approached Ed Caro about his idea of using the drive-in for the flea market in February 2018.

The Caro brothers agreed to host the flea market, noting that while managing a drive-in, business owners have to be creative in generating extra income, especially if a season was affected by factors beyond their control, such as bad weather.

There are other ways the theater engages with its customers as well.

On Sunday, Ed Caro shared that when the movie "IT," which featured a killer clown, was showing, he had his niece, who worked at the theater, dress up as a clown and startle people throughout the movie showing.

However, he says the real thing that keeps people coming back to Malta Drive-in summer after summer is the unique way it allows friends and families to connect with each other. 

"It's a different experience, you know? Sitting outside, watching a movie with your family," he said.

Vehicles began to line up at the drive-in well before the start time of the Sunday night's first show, "Toy Story 4," at 8:55 p.m. Once they passed through the ticket booth, visitors began to set up their own spaces, most of which resembled a family living room outside in front of a large screen, with lawn chairs, blankets and even couch cushions.

Photos: Images of the Malta Drive-In at 70

Kat Brown and Pat Trippany of Albany, were in their spot an hour before the show started, after inflating a large mattress into the bed of their pick-up truck and creating makeshift seats using the couch cushions they brought along.

The pair enjoys visiting drive-ins. While they usually go to the Jericho Drive-in in Glenmont, they decided to venture a little farther out of town Sunday night.

"It's the only theater that was showing both "Toy Story 4" and 'Aladdin,'" Brown explained.

Through July 1, Malta Drive-In will be showing "Toy Story 4" at 8:55 p.m. and "Aladdin," at 10:40 p.m. on one screen, with "Ma," at 9 p.m. and "Shaft" at 10:45 p.m. on the other. For more information about upcoming movies and showtimes, visit Malta Drive-In's website at https://www.maltadrivein.com, or its Facebook page. 

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