When “Dirty Dancing” First Played in Albany

Every time the Times Union promotes a movie night under the stars – and this one is coming up this Tuesday downtown in Albany – I remember that films – in this case, Dirty Dancing – once appeared on motion picture screens around the Capital District.  And that at the time, you saw the films on the big screen and maybe waited six months later for them to appear on VHS videotapes.  Ah, those were the days.

So today, I decided to take a walk though the microfilms and see, first of all, where the Patrick Swayze-Jennifer Grey movie played in our area, what other films may have appeared on the Capital Region multiplexes and drive-ins, and if a theater wasn’t showing Dirty Dancing, what were they showing instead?

Dirty Dancing made its debut on August 21, 1987.  In the indoor movie palaces, it screened at the Hoyts Cinema 12 in Crossgates Mall – back when the theater was adjacent to Caldor.  You remember Caldor, don’t you?  And for that matter, do you recall when the lion’s share of movie screens were under the Australian Hoyts aegis?

The film was also at the Mohawk Mall Cinema, the UA Hellman 1-2, the Cinema 6 at Pyramid Mall in Saratoga Springs, and the Hoyts Cinema 1-6 in Clifton Country Mall.  That’s almsot 25 years ago, and most of those theaters are either long gone or relocated.

Dirty Dancing also appeared at several drive-ins, including the UA Tri-City in Menands, and the Super 50 Twin Drive-In in Ballston Spa.

Now obviously most of these theaters were multi-screen, so let’s see what was playing at that same time, shall we?

Over at the Hellman – which used to exist on Washington Avenue Extension, and is now the site of a medical building – while Dirty Dancing appeared on one screen, the other screen showed Ally Sheedy in the comedy Maid to Order.

The Clifton Country Mall Cinema 6 provided Dirty Dancing with Timothy Dalton’s first of two appearances as James Bond, in the film The Living Daylights.  CCM also showed Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez in Stakeout, the romantic comedy Can’t Buy Me Love, the erotic thriller No Way Out, and the comedy Summer School.  There were also some showings of the Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the theater, as that film was wrapping up its national re-release.

The Cinema 12 in Crossgates Mall had a ton of films on their screens.  In addition to Dirty Dancing, The Living Daylights, Summer School, Can’t Buy Me Love, Stakeout and No Way Out, it was also showing RoboCop, Full Metal Jacket, Masters of the Universe, Monster Squad, La Bamba, Born in East L.A., Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the Fat Boys’ comedy Disorderlies.  That’s 14 films in a 12-screen theater.  Think about that when you see nine films at the 18-screen Crossgates Mall theater today.

Over at Pyramid Mall in Saratoga Springs, you could watch Dirty Dancing, along with Stakeout, No Way Out, The Living Daylights and Can’t Buy Me Love – the theater also was showing The Lost Boys, Monster Squad and Masters of the Universe. Later that year, Pyramid Mall was rebranded as Saratoga Mall, and the theater slowly became a second-run house.  By 1999, the Mall – and its movie theaters – were demolished.

Over at the Mohawk Mall theater in Schenectady – yes, at one time Mohawk Mall had a theater of its own, Dirty Dancing was joined by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Living Daylights, Stakeout, No Way Out, Monster Squad, Born in East L.A., Can’t Buy Me Love – and the exclusive showing of Care Bears: Adventures in Wonderland.

The Tri-City 1-2 Drive-In in Menands twinned Dirty Dancing with the film …about last night; while on the drive-in’s second screen one could watch a double feature of Born in East L.A. and The Secret of My Success.

And at the Super 50 Twin Drive-In in Ballston Spa, Dirty Dancing was joined with Footloose.  I’m sure there was a lot of dancing in the drive-in that night.  Or you could watch Can’t Buy Me Love and Down & Out in Beverly Hills on the Super 50’s other screen.

So if Dirty Dancing wasn’t at a certain theater… what were they showing instead?

The Cine 10 in Northway Mall didn’t have Dirty Dancing; they instead provided their patrons with No Way Out, Summer School, Born in East L.A., Masters of the Universe, Can’t Buy Me Love, The Lost Boys, Monster Squad, Disorderlies, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Untouchables and The Witches of Eastwick.

The UA Center 1-2 over at Colonie Center was still showing Stakeout and The Living Daylights, as well as midnight movie showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Pink Floyd: The Wall.

The UA Plaza 1-2 was now a 99-cent theater, so for a dollar a ticket (and a penny left over), one could watch Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd in Dragnet, or Elisabeth Shue in Adventures in BabysittingAdventures in Babysitting was also the big attraction at the Cinema 7 theater in Latham.

At that time, Proctors’ Theater in Schenectady were also showing movies, and they were offering an exclusive showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  And at the Scotia Cinema, one could see the film Full Metal Jacket for $2 at night, or $1.50 for matinee shows.

At the other drive-ins, the Hudson River Drive-In presented The Lost Boys with the first Lethal Weapon movie.  At the Malta Drive-In, one could start the night with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then watch Song Of The South and finish the triple feature with Flight of the Navigator.  The Jericho Drive-In had a double bill of La Bamba and the Steve Martin comedy Roxanne.

In 1987, the Spectrum was a 3-screen theater, and your choices at the art theater were My Life as a Dog, A Man In Love and The Good Father.

And for the raincoat crowd, the Aust Drive-In in Glens Falls had its own version of “dirty dancing” – as it presented the films Midnite Heat and Sexcapades, starting at 9pm.  Sorry, no recaps of these films for you in this blog.  Use your imagination.