Drive-in theatres enjoy huge resurgence


Drive-in theatres enjoy huge resurgence

  • July 18, 2020

One of the few things standing between coronavirus and cabin fever is the drive-in.

Drive-through art shows, drive-in rock concerts and drive ‘n’ park religious services are all happening during these days of social distancing — and drive-in movie theatres are enjoying a huge resurgence of popularity.

There are eight drive-in theatres not too far from Toronto, including the 5 Drive-in in Oakville, the Mustang in Prince Edward County, the Sunset in Barrie and the Starlite in Hamilton.

For all the great content available for home viewing, people are still desperate to see movies on the big screen. Together. With popcorn.

TIFF recognized that in the careful planning required for their 2020 event, which will include drive-in screenings over the first five days of the September festival.

And now, the Lavazza Film Festival — an all-drive-in festival and one of the first in North America — runs July 20-31 at Ontario Place.

The inaugural Lavazza festival is a cooperative effort between the Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF) and CHIN Radio/TV, and will feature 12 movies from countries most affected by the pandemic.

The drive-in movie “theatre” was created with a massive 60-foot screen in a parking area where just under 200 cars — carefully spaced, of course — can gather. That’s one of biggest drive-in screens in the province (and it’s the one that will be used by TIFF, Sept. 10 to 19.)Opening night film is The Cuban, an affecting new Canadian drama with Louis Gossett Jr. (Watchmen) as an aged musician and Ana Golja (Degrassi) as the naive nursing home worker who befriends him.A story of memory, music and carpe diem living, The Cuban recently won the audience award at the L.A Pan-African film festival. It opens in theatres July 28.

Director Sergio Navarretta, Ana Golja, screenwriter Alessandra Piccione and executive producer Paul Golini will all be on hand for a Q & A on opening night.

Other films at the Lavazza Film Festival include the Italian comedy I Hate Summer, Fisherman’s Friends from the U.K., the crime thriller Sheep Without A Shepherd — a Chinese box-office hit — and The Peanut Butter Falcon, an American SXSW Audience Award winner.

Part of the proceeds go to the Red Cross COVID-19 fund, so it’s a good time for a good cause.

Meanwhile, various drive-theatres in Ontario have opened for the season and continue to do brisk business, even though many show older favourites such as Jaws, Goonies and Gremlins. The 5 Drive-In in Oakville is showing newer fare, such as Bloodshot and The Invisible Man, and the Stardust near Newmarket recently screened The Hunt.

With Hollywood hanging on to new movies until the worst of coronavirus is over, people can still get a cinema fix at 16 drive-ins in Ontario.The renewed popularity of drive-ins, says Nuria Bronfman, executive director of the Movie Theatre Association of Canada, shows that people want to get out of the house and do it safely.“And they still have movies uppermost in mind as a communal experience,” she said.

“There’s nothing like seeing a movie with other people — and laughing together and crying together and eating popcorn. You can’t replicate that at home.”


Movie theatres are starting to open up in Canada.

Nuria Bronfman and her colleagues have been working throughout the pandemic with theatre owners and operators, with public health officials and with politicians in each province to make the changes and adjustments required to ensure safety for staff and patrons.

On Friday, theatres in some parts of Ontario were allowed to open. (The GTA, Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk, Lambton and Windsor-Essex are not yet included in that.)

What remains to be seen is whether or not customers are ready to come back.

Those who do will find new safety protocols and streamlined processes from entry to exit.

Bronfman, executive director of the Movie Theatre Association of Canada, says she has nothing but praise for all involved, including provincial politicians and public health officials.

“They’ve all be so helpful. They do want to get people back to work, but in a measured way. You only need to look at the U.S. to thank your lucky stars our government has been more measured.”

And the theatre owners have their hearts in it. Bronfman praises Cineplex and some of the independent theatres for the help they offered.Together, a small army of people organized seating, physical distancing, new sanitation protocols, hand-wash stations, touchless ticketing, reserved seats, concession changes, exit strategies and more. It all falls in line with public health rulings.As gathering places, movie theatres have a few advantages.

“They can stagger show times to facilitate distancing,” said Bronfman. “Everyone is facing the same way, wearing a mask and not talking.

“Every theatre can show their socially distanced seating arrangements online. People can do a lot in advance — online ticketing and reservations — and when they arrive, staff direct them to assigned seats.”

Both the Cineplex and Landmark online videos explain all these safety changes. Cineplex openings in Ontario are now postponed as the chain deals with legal issues related to a buyout.

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