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1000 Island Drive-in coming soon to Gananoque

A drive-in theatre called 1000 Island Drive-in will be built in Gananoque, with a targeted opening date of July 1, pending final approval from township council. Photo by Jamie Peterson

The timing is finally right for a drive-in movie theater in Gananoque — an idea that’s been circulating for years in the mind of Silver Cinema owner Jamie Peterson.

“Since Kingston’s drive-in closed, there’s been a void in the area. With (the COVID pandemic), it just seems like the right time do it. It’s a safe way to watch movies with your family, your bubble, without exposing yourself to a lot of people,” Jamie said in an interview on Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Jamie has applied for an amendment to the site plan to the Gananoque Planning Advisory Committee and Council, with hopes that by Thursday, Jul. 1, 2021, cinephiles can drive in to the 345 Herbert Street location, purchase a ticket at the RV parked by the entrance, munch on some popcorn, and enjoy a double feature.

Around 100 cars are slated to fit in the lot, fitted with a 56-foot-wide, 28-foot-tall projection screen, according to Jamie. A wide variety of concession items will be available, such as popcorn, ice cream, drinks, candy bars, nachos, fries, hotdogs, poutine, onion rings, and funnel cake fries.

Blueprint for 1000 Island Drive-in Theatre
Provided by Jamie Peterson

Jamie’s father, Paul Peterson, owned a drive-in theatre in Picton for years, until he sold it last year, while his sister Hollie Peterson owns an indoor cinema in Trenton. The three have teamed up as partners for the new business to be called 1000 Island Drive-in.

“It’s definitely a family affair,” said Jamie. “It’s in my blood — I grew up at the drive-in.”

Jamie started Silver Cinema (with video rentals, laser tag, concessions, and a single indoor cinema) 10 years ago, but managed his father’s movie theatre and video rental place called Boulevard Cinema near Gananoque’s waterfront before venturing out on his own.

“Now we’re all coming back together to do the drive-in, where we all started,” he added.

Pandemic effect

Movie theatres have largely been closed since the pandemic began, and the effect of the lockdowns has certainly been felt by Jamie.

“It’s been brutal,” he expressed. “The whole movie industry has taken a huge hit. There wasn’t much to play in the theater, which means not a lot to rent. A lot more people have adopted streaming.”

To stay afloat, Jamie set up video rentals by appointment only, offered take-out food and popcorn, and started selling Kawartha ice cream last summer. He also credits his landlord as being very helpful during the pandemic and very supportive of the addition of the drive-in.

“We’re just trying to find ways to hang in and get through until the industry revives,” he admitted.

“People will be more comfortable with the drive-in before they’d be comfortable gathering indoors in a room with 40 to 50 other people,” Jamie said.

Community Reaction

The reaction has been one of pure delight for the locals, according to Jamie.

“People are so excited. It’s good to give people something to be excited about right now,” he said.

He admits that there’s a need for “stuff to do” in Gananoque. “The drive-in is just a fun way to get out with family. As tourism starts to happen again, (it’s) something to draw people together… come to a restaurant downtown, do a little shopping, then come check out a movie. It could just be good for everybody,” he explained.

Asked what customers can expect at the drive-in, Jamie said that there will always be two movies showing, “all-nighters” on long weekends, as well as carload nights (one price for a carload of people).

A family heritage: siblings Jamie and Hollie Peterson, as well as their dad, Paul Peterson, have owned and managed cinemas for years. They have teamed up to build a drive-in theatre in Gananoque. Photo by Hollie Peterson.

The cost of admission is still being finalized, with the potential price for a carload night at $25 per car.

“We’ve got such great customers and we want to give them something special and fun to do, and give back to the community. We thank our customers for their great support,” said Jamie.

Silver Cinema is currently open for appointment-only video rentals, take-out ice cream, and other concession items. Hours are Thursdays, Fridays,and Saturdays from 3-8 p.m., and Sundays from 12-4 pm. All cinema shows are cancelled until further notice.

For more information, visit http://www.silvercinema.ca/, or call 613-382-8187.

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