This past weekend, the new Scream movie slashed its way to a surprisingly strong US$30.6-million at the box office, thrilling and chilling moviegoers across North America – except, that is, if you live in Ontario and Quebec.
With cinemas shuttered across both provinces, many Canadian Scream fans had to plug their ears and mute the word “Ghostface” from their social-media timelines in the hopes of avoiding spoilers. But for hardcore and in-the-know Scream-ers, there was one little-known venue where they could enjoy the bloody show: the 1000 Islands Drive-In in Gananoque, Ont. – the only drive-in currently operating in either province, and thus the only place audiences can watch Scream. Or, really, any movie.
After a “shockingly busy” opening weekend, 1000 Islands Drive-In owner Paul Peterson spoke with The Globe and Mail about road-tripping fans, below-zero logistics, and exhibiting the one movie that no one else can.
According to Paramount Pictures Canada, you’re the only place in Ontario and Quebec playing Scream. And perhaps the only drive-in operating here, period.
We’re the only maniacs, as far as I know. When I picked up the movie at the depot the other day, they said, “Oh, okay, we didn’t think anyone was open.” I had the only print that went out.
Your season is usually long-wrapped by now, right?
Usually. We went until Halloween this year because we had a late start – I opened 1000 Islands Drive-In with my son just this past year, so our very first day was July 2. I owned the drive-in in Picton, Ont., for 32 years, so normally we’d close in the fall. But we reopened when the Ontario government said in December that indoor theatres couldn’t sell popcorn or pop, before shortly shutting them down entirely. We’ve been back up outdoors since Dec. 24. With concessions, too, because you’re in your car and doing your own thing in your own vehicle.
What’s business been like?
Our feeling was if we can get 10 to 20 cars a night, that’d be fantastic. Spider-Man did not quite double that, but did really well. Sing 2 was amazing, though. My son and I kept shaking our heads at the end of the night. And then Scream? We had people coming from all over the province: Toronto, Hamilton, Guelph. It’s been crazy, a real event.
How long do you plan to stay open now?
That will depend on how good a job our snow-removal fellow does. But my real concern is that we’ll run out of new movies to play. The amazing thing to me is that no one is complaining about the cold, though. They’re bringing blankets, they start up the car once in a while to keep warm. And the snow makes for a pretty backdrop. We’re doing everything opposite to what I know about the drive-in business, but it’s working. If at first you succeed, try not to look too surprised.
You own the indoor Silver Cinema connected to the drive-in. Are there any logistical problems about opening in these conditions?
No, because the No. 1 problem for drive-ins is that usually the washrooms are outside, the concession stand is outside. So the water has to be turned off and drained, and you can’t really service customers in the winter. We’re fortunate because we use the Silver Cinema’s indoor washrooms, indoor snack bar. It’s just a matter of turning the projector on and we’re good to go. We basically built the drive-in in our backyard from scratch.
This must be one of the few new drive-ins to be built in Ontario in … decades?
It’s been a while. The last one might’ve been the Docks in downtown Toronto. I don’t mind swimming upstream when people are supporting us.
So it’s safe to say you’re bullish on the return of big-screen moviegoing?
Yeah, or as someone suggested, I have no sense whatsoever. But honestly it seemed like a good idea. We have this 11-acre backyard and the perfect vantage point to project out. Opening in winter seemed ridiculous, but I specialize in that.
This interview has been condensed and edited
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