Affordable and nostalgic fun in Saskatchewan
An evening at a drive-in theatre is just a short drive away from the Queen City
Do you remember the good old days when folks went to drive-in movie theatres in the summer to catch the latest blockbuster flick, instead of cramming themselves into a dirty movie theatre? Unless you were born into the Baby Boomer Generation or Generation X, you probably have no idea what a drive-in movie theatre is. Or if you do, you’ve probably never experienced one firsthand. With the closure of Regina’s Cinema 6 drive-in in 2006, the people of Regina have been without the drive-in movie theatre experience for five years. But don’t think that experience is unavailable to you: there are still a handful of drive-in theatres running across Saskatchewan.
Wolseley’s Don Zaba runs the Twilite Drive-In, which is located an hour east of Regina on the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s one of four drive-ins left in the province. Having inherited the theatre – Saskatchewan’s first – from his father, who opened the business in 1954, Zaba has grown up around the drive-in and drive-in culture. Zaba’s Twilite Drive-in is the closest drive-in theatre to Regina, the other three being located in Manitou Beach, Kyle, and Carlyle.
At less than $7 per person – $6 if you’re a student – it’s much cheaper than the $15 you have to pay to check out the latest summer blockbuster in 3D. On Sundays, $17 gets a whole carload in to see the latest Hollywood flick, and you’ll even get a free small popcorn. Even when you factor in the cost of gas from Regina to Wolseley – about $20 if you’ve got a decent car – it’s still cheaper than a night out at the Cineplex. Additionally, since you’re watching the film from the comfort of your own car at the drive-in, you don’t have to deal with over-priced food, screaming kids, or that notorious “Tommy Texter”.
Drive-in theatres reached their peak in the 1950s, offering what Zaba calls “family-oriented pictures.” With the emergence of the blockbuster in the late 1970s and early 1980s, however, drive-in movie theatres started catering to younger audiences.
Today, with the emergence of Netflix, online media, and declining movie audiences in North America, drive-in theatres are struggling to survive. Ironically, while new technology attempts to draw audiences to the Cineplex, it’s the novelty of the past that brings audiences to the drive-in.
“There’s a little bit of nostalgia [in] bringing people to the drive-in. They want to take advantage of them while they’re still around,” said Zaba. “Parents want to take their children who have never had a chance to go to a drive-in.”
In many ways, today’s drive-in experience can be just as authentic as a 1950s drive-in experience. Although most of the car speakers at the Twilite Drive-in were replaced in the 1970s in favor of a short AM transmitter, the first row still has working car speakers that you can hook onto your window. Additionally, Zaba has shied away from digital projects and continues to project films on celluloid.
Despite the low cost and the nostalgia of the Twilite, Zaba doesn’t seem to be optimistic about the future of drive-ins.
“As it’s ending, it’s going back,” he said, referring to the drive-in’s return to family-friendly films similar to those of the 1940s and ‘50s.
But lest you think drive-ins are just for families, Zaba offers more mature fare from time to time. Though he refuses to show romantic films because he says they don’t play well – so, if you thought about taking your partner or a date out for a romantic evening at the drive-in, think again – Zaba says action films are a staple at his drive-in. In the past, Zaba has shown the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Iron Man, as well as a handful of more art-house fare like the action-thriller Hanna.
For more information and a schedule of showtimes, check out www.twilitedrivein.com. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to check out any of the other drive-ins in the province, check out the Jubilee Drive-In in Manitou Beach, Clearwater Drive-In in Kyle, or the Prairie Dog Drive-In in Carlyle.