The amazing renaissance of the drive-ins

Richard Therrien
The SunL’étonnante renaissance des ciné-parcs

L’étonnante renaissance des ciné-parcs

L’étonnante renaissance des ciné-parcs

Since 5 June, Historia broadcasts on Friday at 21h the documentary series <em>A view under the stars</em>, packed with archival images, anecdotes, and opinions of experts and maniacs, open-air cinema.

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June 26, 2020 17h48

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The amazing renaissance of the drive-ins

CHRONIC / We have often announced the death of drive-ins. It was far from suspecting that the pandemic would bring them back in the news. Perfect Timing : since 5 June, Historia broadcasts on Friday at 21h the excellent documentary series A view under the stars, packed full of archival images, anecdotes, and opinions of experts and maniacs, open-air cinema. A work in eight episodes of the director Joëlle Desjardins Paquette, accents nostalgic of course, but also very grounded in the present and looking towards the future.

The reopening of the drive-ins, and greeted with much cynicism by the cultural milieu, has delighted the customer, fond of the cinema in garnotte. In Québec, no more than five : Saint-Hilaire, Saint-Eustache, Belle Neige in Val-Morin, Orford, and Paradiso in Grande-Rivière. It is in the 80’s as drive-ins have lived their golden age, with forty operators. Sept-Îles, Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Val-d’or, Bonaventure, Grand-Mother, Victoriaville, Saint-Félicien, quebec, Montmagny, Laval, Sainte-Luce, Gatineau, Joliette, Drummondville, Val-Bélair, Rivière-du-Loup, Châteauguay, Alma, La Pocatière, Matane and the Magdalen Islands, to name a few, have all already had their drive-ins.

The reopening late of cinemas and entertainment venues led to the establishment of drive-in theatres temporary, which present films, but also performances from singers and comedians. Include the Royalmount on the island of Montreal, and Vaudreuil-Dorion, Montérégie, Saint-David-de-Falardeau, in Saguenay and Vallée du parc in Mauricie, among others. In Quebec, the idea has given rise to a quarrel between film distributors and the mayor Labeaume, so that the screens provided on the grounds of ExpoCité and the Jean-Lesage international Airport on 2 July will never be erected. The population of the capital and surrounding areas would have been able to reconnect with the genre, and who is deprived of drive-ins since the closure of the last in Saint-Nicolas six years ago. So much the worse.

Quebec has long resisted the establishment of drive-ins, yet created in the 30s in New Jersey; the clergy saw in it a source of corruption of youth. In a province choked by the conservatism of Maurice Duplessis, it will have to wait until 1970 to see the first in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce. It must be said that even today, some will not go there to see the film; the owner of the Ciné-parc St-Hilaire, Kevin Patenaude, finds all sorts of personal effects on his field at the end of the evening. “It seems that there are a lot of unijambistes at a drive-in park, because you really find a lot of “a shoe”, “sandal”. You could make a wardrobe of underwear that was found, pants, sometimes underwear over the pants, you wonder the people are divided how at them!” he says, amused.

L’étonnante renaissance des ciné-parcs

Quebec has long resisted the establishment of drive-ins, yet created in the 30s in New Jersey; it will have to wait until 1970 to see the first in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce.

Photo Historia

Without minimizing the impact of religion, the film historian Pierre Pageau identifies another cause to the delay of Quebec to accept the drive-ins on its territory, compared to English Canada. “It is also because the theatre owners did not want to drive-ins,” he says.

Family day out par excellence, the evening at the cinema park represents quite an event for many Quebecers, around pajamas, blankets and treats. The oldest remember of these speakers, the metal that was fixed to the side window of the car and that grichaient all the time, from space heaters electric and small awnings to see the film even in the rain. It was not uncommon to see children hide in the trunk to lower the price of the entrance ticket!

Many will say that the cine-park has much more to do with the car than with the cinema; the choice of films is often limited to the blockbusters, and the quality of projection is not optimal as in the rooms. Although the Paradiso of Grande-Rivière in the Gaspé peninsula can boast of being the most modern, with the single-projector laser, which replaces the good old light bulbs, much less sustainable. According to Pierre Pageau, cinema under the stars gives science-fiction films, a perspective not in the rooms.

Jean-Philippe Groleau, who runs the website cineparcs.ca, considers that each region of the province should have its drive-ins. “The Québec region has no more drive-ins, this is not normal. The region of Rimouski, we are far from Quebec city, there should be one. The Saguenay…” he observes in the series. This is often not a matter of declining attendance that it was closed all of these drive-ins : one of Beauport was the third most attended in the country when it was dismantled in 1999 to make way for a complex of 16 rooms, Cineplex Odeon. Inaugurated in 1970, the ciné-parc de la Colline in Saint-Nicolas, has been sold to a real estate developer and has designed its latest “views” in the summer of 2014, signing the end of the open-air cinema in the region of Quebec. “If they were still open today, I think it would be full,” says Jean-Philippe Groleau.

L’étonnante renaissance des ciné-parcs

The old cinema-park Beauport

Archives The Sun

But then, why is it past forty drive-ins to only five in 2020? Among the reasons, we think the investment is too high for the conversion to digital, in six figures for each new projector, but above all a willingness to take greater advantage of these huge land, 12 months per year rather than only during the summer period. The proliferation of shopping centres and complexes of cinema has also accelerated their disappearance.

True manic drive-ins and former employee of the de Boucherville, Jean-Philippe Groleau was undertaken last year to acquire the deceased ciné-parc Bellevue in Caraquet, New Brunswick, unfortunately, without success. Although there remain only five in Quebec, experts and enthusiasts predict that the disappearance of drive-ins is not for tomorrow. The pandemic has given momentum for a totally unsuspected the last drive-in existing parks. Apart from Boucherville, which has announced its closure in April, so after the production of the documentary series, five of which are still operated work well.

L’étonnante renaissance des ciné-parcs

Quebec is past forty drive-ins to only five in 2020.

Photo Historia

It is necessary to see the queues of cars to the infinite that has led to the reopening of the cine-parc Saint-Eustache to see that there is still a real appetite for the open-air cinema. By the way, the next episode, entitled family History, Friday, at 21h, has a particular interest in this cine-park on the north shore of Montreal, opened in 1971 and still owned by the family Mathers, who leads off in the region. Five screens are always attract the crowds, which can accommodate up to 3300 cars.

Author of the book cinema in Quebec, Pierre Pageau believes that drive-ins would have an interest in presenting shows and movies in the same night, a combo enticing to the customer. If the number of drive-ins has declined, however, he pointed out the increase in outdoor screenings in the cities and villages, as the film Festival of Quebec city. According to his flair, drive-ins are here to stay, because of their rarity and their uniqueness. But we should not expect to see new ones appear. One can always dream.

The first five episodes of’A view under the stars are available on the website historiatv.com.

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