20 August 2020
If you are of a certain age, the summer drive-in movie experience is likely part of your childhood or adolescence. It might drum up fond memories of the giant beachside screen down the road from your parents’ cottage or the rural drive-in that offered a double feature to campers in the heat of summer.
Though the drive-in experience has faded from prominence, the idea has made a comeback this year as a result of COVID-19, and offers a perfect solution for this strange, socially-distanced time when communal entertainment is to be enjoyed six feet apart.
The modern drive-in is a bit different from years’ past, now offering current films as well as the old classics. Just like when you visited as a kid, the drive-in still sells refreshments like popcorn, candy and soda pop. Some even have playgrounds for families to entertain their children. But during this window of time, it’s preferable that everyone stays inside or in close proximity to their vehicle. Today, the sound comes through your own FM radio. And no one leaves the car except to go to the washroom—wearing a mask, of course.
MADE | NOUS, which is a national campaign launched in 2019 to celebrate the work of Canadian film, television, and digital entertainment, is taking advantage of this resurgence by organizing screenings of blockbuster Canadian films.
“We all need to take a breath and relax this summer,” says Mathieu Chantelois, vice-president of communications and promotion for the Canada Media Fund. “What better time to celebrate our great Canadian films under the stars—ones that will make us laugh, cry, and give us something else to think about, besides all the current uncertainty.”
Among the locations offering drive-in movies is Downsview Park in Toronto, the large urban park located in the Downsview neighborhood in the North York district. This is where their Friday Night Lights summer movie series is now in its fourth consecutive year.
Every other Friday until September 4, the park will be showing a free film chosen in partnership with MADE | NOUS. The chosen films were either shot in Canada, include Canadian actors and directors, were brought to life by Canadian crews, or were given the golden touch of Canadian post-production houses.
In previous years, the public could picnic on the grass to watch free movies every second Friday. But this year, given these circumstances, the program has been converted to a drive-in, bring-your-own-snacks format in the Festival Terrace. Though screenings are free, viewers have to RSVP on their website to reserve a spot.
The series kicked off on July 3 with a screening of Arrival, the 2016 sci-fi flick from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. The sci-fi spectacle was shot at locations across Quebec, and it prominently displays the VFX artistry of many Quebec-based companies, including Alchemy 24, Folks, Hybride, MELS, Oblique FX, Raynault VFX and Rodeo FX.
The second movie in the series, The LEGO Movie 2, was chosen not only for its obvious child-friendly appeal but also for the incredible talent that Animal Logic’s Vancouver studio brought to the film. Each movie on the list is announced two weeks before the screening date.
Mathieu Chantelois notes that the pandemic abruptly halted Canadian film productions, and pressed pause on thousands of jobs.
“Though there is much uncertainty, this summer series gives Canadians the opportunity to celebrate what our vibrant film production industry has already created,” says Chantelois.
“We chose these films to celebrate the productions that were brought to life by Canadian crews and/or Canadian post-production houses. It’s really great to celebrate all the stellar work that’s being done right here at home, on some projects that may surprise people.”
All Toronto screenings will be hosted in partnership with Downsview Park, but other drive-ins and cine-parks across the country, from Cape Breton Island to Saskatchewan, will also screen selections from the series. Perhaps the romance of watching movies under the stars will not fade away again, even when the pandemic does.