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Season premiere for Saskatchewan drive-in theatre won’t happen in Phase 1

Saskatchewan drive-in theatre owner caught off-guard, won’t open in phase 1
The provincial government added drive-in theatres to the first phase of its Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, but an owner says they won’t be open on May 15. Clearwater Drive-In / Facebook

An owner of a Saskatchewan drive-in movie theatre says the decision about when to open isn’t an easy one.

Last week, the provincial government updated its ReoOpen Saskatchewan plan to lift restrictions on businesses put forth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The changes included bumping drive-in theatres up from Phase 4 to Phase 1, which started May 4.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Drive-in operators set sights on summer to open outdoor theatres

Clearwater Drive-In owner Denise Kelk said the go-ahead to open for the season on May 15 caught her by surprise.

“It’s a good thing, but we certainly won’t be in a position to open for next weekend, going under the previous information of being in Phase 4. Nobody knew when that was going to be and therefore can’t really prepare or plan for much at all,” she said.

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“[Opening to customers is] going to be sometime in June because this just happened [May 8]. Both my husband and I have other full-time jobs. We just haven’t been able to talk about it much. So we’ll be making a decision in the next few days.”

The drive-in theatre northeast of Kyle, Sask., typically runs seasonally from the May long weekend through the Labour Day weekend.

Kelk said their decision is also affected by the COVID-19 guidelines imposed by the government, which includes separating vehicles by a minimum of five metres or 16.4 feet.

“We can fit 150 cars in comfortably,” she said.

“[The guidelines] are going to pose a challenge with the limiting of vehicles… That’s going to essentially cut our capacity by 50 per cent.”
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“By the time we’re ready to open in June, perhaps the food services may have changed somewhat. For example, in phase three is when the restaurants are slated to start to have dine-in. So if that happens… then that may make it a little bit easier for us, concession-wise.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan economy faces more uncertainty with possible Grey Cup cancellation

The couple has operated Clearwater Drive-In since July 1988 but this isn’t the first year they’ve experienced a setback.

“There was one other year when we tried to convert to digital in 2013, we had a bit of a setback with trying to reface our screen and the difficulties that we had with that. And that delayed our season-opening by a few weeks,” Kelk said.

“But this situation is… completely off the map. It’s going to be challenging. I guess once we get going to see how we’re going to adjust to things and go from there.”

“We’re just going into an unknown situation. So hopefully everything will work out for us when we open.”

Twilite Drive-in Theatre, at Wolseley, Sask., and Prairie Dog Drive-In, north of Carlyle, will start with screenings of Trolls World Tour on May 15, according to Facebook pages.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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