Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Lost Hellman Theaters

As I was researching a couple of other theaters, including the Hellman, when I came across these two newspaper articles. They both address a project I had never heard of and that apparently never came to be: Construction of another Hellman-owned theater at Stuyvesant Plaza on Western Avenue.

The first article is from the Altamont Enterprise and is dated April 30, 1965...

The second article, from the Amsterdam Evening Recorder October 5, 1965, had an even bigger surprise included. The Hellman's had planned to build a second theater next to the existing Hellman Theatre on Washington Avenue. I can only imagine how cool that would have been, two giant-screened movie houses right next to each other!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Hellman Theatre

I recall attending the Hellman only three times. Once in the 70's on a class field trip. We watched a screening of "How the West Was Won" (1962) in Cinerama! I went back in 1981 to see Roger Moore as James Bond in "For Your Eyes Only" and then again in 1984 to see David Lynch's "Dune." Now, (again) these are the movies I remember.

When I saw "How the West Was Won," the Hellman was still a single screen theater, seating over 1,000. I remember the gold curtains on the walls, the plush seats and the massive Cinerama screen - The Hellman Theater was truly a movie palace.

Unfortunately by the time we saw "Dune," the theater had been twinned, and very awkwardly so. They literally built a dividing wall down the center of the auditorium, halving the center seating section and not adding another aisle to walk down. The seating was then kind of off-center to the now smaller screen.


Hellman Theatre (1960-1989)
1365 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12206

Opened in 1960 on Washington Avenue, across the street from SUNY Albany. Originally designed with a large, very lavish lobby and lounge, and gold draperies throughout the auditorium. The two center sections had gold seats, while the two aisles flanking the walls had blue seats.

United Artists took over in the 70’s, and twinned it in the 80’s. It was the last of the Hellman Theatres in the Albany area to close. It sat empty for a few years. The theatre was eventually demolished.
(via Cinema Treasures)

What's There Now?
Flickr Photo Set

Publication and date unknown.

Boxoffice Magazine - May 30, 1960

Boxoffice Magazine - June 6, 1960

Motion Picture Herald - July 2, 1960

Motion Picture Herald - July 2, 1960

Motion Picture Herald - July 2, 1960

Photos via Cinerama

Monday, May 23, 2011

We need your help.

If any of you have stories to tell, photos or home movies to share, please contact us.

You can call or email me at:

We have had no luck contacting the owner's family of the Indian Ladder Drive-In Theater in New Scotland. If anyone has a lead I can follow-up it would be GREATLY appreciated.

Thanks for all your help,
- Allen

Friday, May 20, 2011

Greetings Movie Goers!

I owe all of you an apology. Since my last posting and contact with the Capitol Region things have been very busy here in New Hampshire.

Our winter was wild and wacky, then Lisa’s work/travel schedule heated up, I picked up some freelance assignments and I just finished working on an episode of “Unusual Suspects” (Investigation Discovery) for LMNO Productions.

But now I’m going to carve out more time for PMH and follow up on contacts I made the last time I was in town. My first three tasks will be a Mayfair Drive-In (on camera) interview, a Mohawk Mall Cinema (on camera) interview and searching the Spotlight Newspaper’s archives (Delmar, NY) for photos and articles.

And (as it just comes back to me) I need to transcribe an audio interview about the Mayfair Drive-In. Busy, busy, busy!

- Allen

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I Remember...

What I Remember… Indian Ladder Drive-In
My family often went to the Indian Ladder Drive In. On weekends, as I remember, the ticket-takers would dress up with feathers and war paint. My dad would say, "Thanks, Chief!"

It was always a long wait until it got dark enough to start the films. The theater played recorded music over the tinny speaker that we would hang inside the car window. Sometimes we would get one that didn't work, and we'd have to move the car. Those speakers were so unlike the huge surround sound speakers in modern theaters and even in homes. A recorded announcement reminded patrons to remember to put the speaker back on its pole before driving away, but asked that patrons who forgot to just hand the speaker, (its torn wire hanging) to an attendant. I always wondered how many people drove home with the speaker just to avoid the embarrassment of having to hand it in.

The show began with a recording of Kate Smith singing "God Bless America." I think there was a flag next to the screen that was lowered at that point. Then the first cartoon would come on - indistinct, because it was still not fully dark. My dad really liked Wiley Coyote - he would laugh till he choked. Eventually the feature film would start. My sister and I, in our pajamas, would try to stay awake through to the end. Rainy nights were a problem. I seem to remember that my dad rigged up a small plastic awning over the windshield on one of those nights.

In the summer of 1965, just after graduating from Voorheesville High School, my friend Paul Westbrook and I got jobs working in the snack bar at the Indian Ladder. It was the perfect work schedule for teenagers: 7 pm to 1 am. We sold hot dogs and hamburgers, meat ball sandwiches, pizza, soft drinks, coffee, and of course, popcorn.

The snack bar had a small storage closet. At the beginning of the season it was packed solid with boxes of paper napkins, straws, paper cups and the like. One night I was maneuvering a 50-pound can of coconut oil out of the closet when it fell on my toe. The toenail eventually grew back.

The big hit movie that summer was "Mary Poppins." It played for a solid month. Paul and I never saw it, but we heard the sound track something like 24 times. Actually, we must have seen it once elsewhere, because we loved the scene where Dick van Dyck, as the old man, says, "When falls the Bank of England, England falls!" We would stop what we were doing every night and go outside to see his perfect backward fall.

There was an intermission every night. Paul and I needed to be prepared for the long lines of patrons, who had just viewed the little cartoon of singing popcorn boxes and dancing soda bottles. We were always very pleased if we saw some attractive young lady come in with her buttons done wrong.

Things were usually quieter after intermission. When the movie was over, we would close up. I was surprised to learn through my cleaning duties that the ladies' room was quite a bit messier that the men's room. I was also able to learn one night that a certain girl liked me, because she had written her name and mine in lipstick. She undoubtedly did not consider the possibility that my professional duties included cleaning that very lipstick off the wall. (Or, maybe she did think of it!)

There was a juice machine that needed to be emptied every night so that the juice could be refrigerated. We learned that if you accidentally grounded yourself against the sink while running the juice into its jug, you'd get a pretty good jolt of electricity. Why didn't we tell Mr. Hallenbeck?

Paul and I worked there six nights a week. I remember we returned once as patrons, with our dates. It was a lovely evening.

The summer ended, and we went off to college. It never occurred to us to take a photo at the Indian Ladder, and I have no memorabilia. Just memories of a time before cable TV and DVDs, when New Scotland had inexpensive movie theaters, and families and teens could enjoy a summer night of entertainment and, well, ok food under the Helderberg Escarpment.

Jerry Shedd
Voorheesville Class of ‘65
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