The Best Drive-In Theatres Across Canada
Temporary drive-ins are popping up across Canada this summer as a safe way to see movies. For a real sense of nostalgia, however, you can't beat these classic Canadian drive-in theatres, which have been screening your favourite films under the stars for decades.
Stardust Drive-In, Newmarket, Ontario
One of Canada’s oldest and most popular drive-in theatres is located just over an hour north of Toronto. Built in 1952, the Stardust Drive-In still has its original look and feel, and has hosted generations of Canadian movie lovers—and even movie stars, including John Candy and Jim Carrey. The Ace Ventura actor lived around the corner from the theatre at one time, and was known for sneaking in every weekend with his friends. Little did he know he would one day be up on the big screen, too!
Sussex Drive In, Sussex East, New Brunswick
How do you top dinner and a drive-in movie? Try spending the night camping! Founded in 1967, New Brunswick’s Sussex Drive-In boasts an adjoining campground, which saves movie-lovers the long drive home after a late-night flick. This summer, Sussex has added live music and comedy events to their program, including a performance from Elvis tribute artist Thane Dunn that’ll take audiences back to the heyday of drive-ins and rock-‘n’-roll.
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Muskoka Drive-In, Gravenhurst, Ontario
The Muskoka Drive-In has a unique claim to fame: it’s the only theatre in Canada with a cement screen that sits on top of a giant rock. That rock happens to be Canadian Shield granite, and it actually forms part of the screen, giving the theatre its catchy motto, “Meet you at the Rock!” Current owner William Alexander considered removing the granite when he purchased the theatre, but was told not to, given its historical significance. Is that what’s meant by being stuck between and rock and a hard place?
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Valley Drive-In, Cambridge, Nova Scotia
By the 1990s, drive-in theatres across the country were on the decline. After four decades of operation, Nova Scotia’s historic Valley Drive-In nearly joined the growing list of closures—until a miraculous intervention from the local Lions Club saved the day. The Lions transformed the theatre into a non-profit, recognizing its value as a community hub, and transforming it into a centre for summer fun. In addition to regular screenings, they’re hosting drive-in bingo on Tuesdays and summer flea markets.
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Big Island Drive-In, Flin Flon, Manitoba
With the distinction of being Canada’s northernmost drive-in theatre, Big Island Drive-In opens its gates every April, come rain, shine or… Snow. The food alone makes it worth scraping the frost off your windshield, as the on-site restaurant is famed for its giant pickles and house-pickled eggs, which patrons buy by the jar. Come for the films, stay for the grub!
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Starlite Drive-In, Grand Bend, Ontario
This cottage community drive-in theatre on the sunny shores of Lake Huron has been entertaining audiences since 1955. The challenges of COVID-19 have inspired owner Allan Barnes to get creative with his programming, so he’s been screening smaller Canadian films as well as classics like the Three Stooges and old-school cartoons—though modern-day audiences can be tough critics. “When we screened Three Little Pigs,” Barnes says, “Parents complained that the wolf was smoking.” Changing times, indeed!
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Brackley Drive-In Theatre, Brackley Beach, Prince Edward Island
PEI’s only drive-in theatre will take you back in time like Marty McFly (no DeLorean required). Brackley Drive-In was built in the mid-’50s and purchased in 1992 by George, Linda and Robert Boyle, who were determined to keep the theatre’s retro aesthetic intact. In addition to the five-storey screen, the theatre has a ’50s-style canteen with a vintage Coca-Cola machine, a jukebox, and even a Morris Minor car!
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Clearwater Drive-In, Kyle, Saskatchewan
The Clearwater Drive-In in Saskatchewan has been operating continuously since the late ’50s—barring the June of 1987, when a plough wind ripped through the region and demolished the original wooden screen. The drive-in was up and running again a few weeks later, and has been entertaining prairie residents ever since—particularly those visiting Clearwater Lake Regional Park and Saskatchewan Provincial Park, both just minutes away.
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5 Drive-In, Oakville, Ontario
Built in the late 1950s, 5 Drive-In was initially an experiment in rear-view projection, where the projector would have been placed behind the viewing screen. The experiment didn’t work, but the theatre is now one of the GTA’s go-to drive-ins, boasting no fewer than three screens and a play area for kids. Celebrities like Vin Diesel and Tom Cruise have even been known to take in a flick under the open sky when passing through town.
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Starlight Drive-In, Enderby, British Columbia
Built in 1996, Starlight Drive-In may be a recent addition to Canada’s drive-in roster, but what it lacks in history, it more than makes up for in size. Measuring 15 metres tall and 36 metres wide, the Starlight’s drive-in screen is the largest in North America. Building it was a passion project for founder Terry Jones, who had faith that drive-ins were due for a renaissance. As the Star reports, Jones told a local paper at the time of construction, “We think it’s come full circle… People are tired of just watching videos.”
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Port Hope Drive-In, Port Hope, Ontario
Built in 1948, the Port Hope Drive-In is one of Canada’s oldest continually operating theatres. Current owner Robert Holdsworth has been running it for 28 years, and has preserved the theatre’s classic feel, including its original screen building. Holdsworth typically shows new releases, but has been supplementing the screenings with some of his personal favourites this year, including Ghostbusters and Men in Black. “The movie is clear, the sound is good,” Holdsworth says. “And that’s why people come back.”
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