North Country at Work: Sally Strasser runs the movie theater in Tupper Lake

November, 2019

Nov 04, 2019 — The Adirondack State Theater in Tupper Lake is cozy. It’s got two screens, one on each floor. From the lobby, you can hear the faint thuds and crashes of an action movie playing downstairs.

The theater opened in 1914, showing silent films and vaudeville theater. It still has one of those vintage, 1930s-era marquees out front. That’s because Sally Strasser, who bought the cinema in 2004, has a “thing” for old movie theaters.

In her 20s, Strasser worked for studio screening rooms like Disney and 20th Century Fox in New York City. When she came up to the North Country to raise her kids, she said the State Theater caught her eye. She said it looked like it needed someone to take care of it.

“I’m surprised that it’s still open, that it’s still here! I expected that this could really end badly… but I wanted to try.”

Strasser got her training showing movies on reel-to-reel film. That meant actually standing in the booth looking for cue marks on the screen to know when to switch to a new reel. There would be a mark – like a cigarette burn on the corner of the screen – to tip off the projectionist.

At the first cue mark, she explains, you’d turn on the motor to a second projector. About eight seconds later, you’d see a second mark. Then, you hit a button – a shutter drops and a shutter opens – and the new projector is now running the new reel. 

"It's an art form, really." 

Running a small business also means knowing how to deal with the unexpected challenges that crop up.

Read or listen to the story on North Country Public Radio.