Looking for a nostalgic cinema experience or some simple fun? Then a visit to the iconic Muskoka Drive-In near Gravenhurst, Ontario is sure to delight.
This popular theatre in the woods with the screen up high on a rock is not only the northern-most drive-in still operating in the province, it’s also one of the oldest in Canada, built in 1952.
“If you take a look at the 60s and 70s, the drive-in was a hub of the community,” says owner William Alexander, whose former career was in the TV or movie business in one way or another. “Once videos came in, the drive-ins lost their luster.”
Lately, though, with folks seeking a more simple life in these hectic times, the Muskoka Drive-In is experiencing a renaissance in more ways than one. The theatre has undergone extensive upgrades under Alexander’s management, including retrofits of the women’s washroom, the snack bar and the sound system, and the addition of a kids’ playground with equipment that’s retro but still up to current code. There’s also a giant sandpit, tetherball courts and even a movie-themed miniature golf course. Perhaps most importantly, the owners recently switched from 35 mm film to digital—offering a more up-to-date movie experience.
Still, nostalgia is a major draw for families and friends. Where else can you watch two first-run movies for the price of one, while buying popcorn refills, with real butter, for 50 cents? What the Muskoka Drive-In offers, says William Alexander, is an evening of fun that makes everyone happy.
“You come before show-time and enjoy yourself as a family. The kids have stuff to do if the adults want to talk, and you get your burger, dog or popcorn,” he says. “Prior to the show there are cartoons and old ads, so the adults can experience pretty much the same presentation as when they were kids. But we’re showing new films.”
To go digital, Alexander purchased a top-of-the-line projector from Belgium—but he’s kept the original massive and still operational 50s-era film projector on display for people interested in how the technology has changed.
Sound is by radio, so the quality is as good as the speakers in your vehicle, and movie-goers control the volume. “The kids can talk, they can ask you questions and you can answer them, you don’t have to shush them,” Alexander points out. “And because the screen is high on a rock, you don’t have to park at the back if you’re in a truck.”
With deals such as season packages, $5-dollar Tuesdays, and car-load nights (where as many people as will legally fit in your vehicle get in for $15 to view two movies), the Muskoka Drive-In offers great entertainment value. The theatre is traditionally open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some Tuesday nights during May and June, seven nights a week from the beginning of July through to Labour Day, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights after that for as long as people come out—sometimes up until the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
Treat your family to some nostalgic fun this summer and fall. Check the Muskoka Drive-In website for what’s playing, directions, pricing, specials, and more.
And kids! Wear your pyjamas!
To plan your visit to the great Canadian wilderness, click here. For accommodations, click here. For more information on Muskoka, click here.