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‘We’re very hopeful’: Manitoba drive-in theatres looking at a renaissance

FILE - In this June 26, 2014, file photo, movie-goers watch "How to Train Your Dragon 2,". Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

A foregone staple of the entertainment industry is looking to make a comeback amid social distancing requirements of the coronavirus pandemic.

Movie theatres were some of the businesses forced to close their doors when Canadians began staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but their drive-in counterparts are hoping their business model helps put them back in the spotlight.

READ MORE: Road trip Ontario: Let’s all go to the drive-in

The Stardust Drive-In, located in Morden, Man., is one of just a handful of drive-ins left in the province.

As they prepare to reopen for the spring, they’re looking forward to the newfound opportunity in front of them.

“We’re gearing up for the May long weekend, subject to approval [from the province]. Manitoba has been doing very well and we don’t want to contribute to that changing,” explains owner Marlene Nelson.
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While the idea of patrons remaining in their cars seems pretty safe, Nelson says even the drive-ins will have to make some adjustments if they want to remain open during a time of social distancing.

READ MORE: Langley, B.C., drive-in presses on with movies amid coronavirus crisis

“We’re thinking about doing a menu at the gate, where everyone can fill in the things they want [from the concession stand]. We’d limit the amount of people inside the concession and could text them when their meal is ready.”

The movie industry has seen dozens of movie releases postponed due to the coronavirus, as producers look to avoid low box office totals when their films hit the screen.

With just a trickle of new movies coming out right now, it presents a new challenge – but there’s still no shortage of content.

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“There are so many really good classic movies out there. There are also some [released in the winter] that we can’t show you at that time,” says Nelson, since they are not open during colder months.
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“There are good options out there to kick off the season – and we can mix in some classics that would be great to see on the big screen again.”

READ MORE: Manitoba film productions shuttered amid COVID-19 pandemic, but industry group points to future

Nelson adds the Stardust will need Public Health to approve their re-opening for the season, but it’s an exciting time for her business, as Winnipeggers online have expressed interest in making the 90-minute drive to catch a flick.

“We’ve appreciated everyone’s excitement and it would be so wonderful to see people coming out,” Nelson explains. “We need positives, and it would be a great way for people to go out, stay safe and have a good time.”

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