Thursday Night at the Movies: Nostalgia in the 21st Century

Hop in the car for Thursday Night at the Movies at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin! There’s a different movie every Thursday throughout July and August, so why not make it a date night (or a few)? First, enjoy a tasty supper in Cruisers Café, served up from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. but don’t forget to save some room for popcorn before enjoying a free movie starting at 7 p.m. in the main theatre.

Check out the movies you can watch!

ReynoldsDriveIn

The main theatre isn’t the only place at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum where there’s on-screen entertainment…

If you have never been to a real outdoor drive-in theatre, you can catch the next best thing! Come take a seat in the memorable drive-in room (pictured) at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin — and it won’t be just any seat…these ones have fins and tail lights! This fun indoor drive-in harkens back to the days of flickering outdoor movies, pails of popcorn, and tinny sound. The Reynolds-Alberta drive-in experience even comes complete with a front row of shiny vintage cars, iconic aluminum speakers, a café, and a large screen mounted high, commanding the audience’s attention like always. Classic cartoons from the 1930s to 1950s play continuously for the pleasure of young and old.

Alberta’s last drive-in screen

The scene of Alberta’s last fixed outdoor movie screen was at Redcliff’s Gemini Drive-in. It closed in 2005. When the screen was finally taken down in 2013, it symbolized the end of a cultural phenomenon.

The drive-in theatre was once a place where people and cars gathered under summer night skies to watch double features, or dusk-to-dawn events, on towering screens unlike anything else. For 60 years, the Gemini was a familiar landmark on the southern Alberta prairies and a magnet for entertainment seekers from the nearby City of Medicine Hat and Canadian Forces Base Suffield.

The beginning: The time before home video

An auto parts salesman named Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in movie theatre in 1933 located in Camden, New Jersey.  He charged just .25 cents per car and .25 per person. That fee structure became a distinguishing feature of drive-ins although it was vulnerable to shenanigans of people hiding in trunks or on the floors under blankets to avoid the admission gates.

Big, backlit billboards would announce that evening’s shows while flashing neon arrows pointed to entrances like electric buskers. On-screen, messages like, “It’s intermission time!” or “Visit our snack bar!” would coax patrons into the fresh night air towards the snack bars serving everything from pizza to peanuts.

Popularity peaked at the end of the 1950s when drive-ins numbered over 4,000 in the U.S. and more than 240 in Canada. Today, unfortunately, no permanent drive-ins remain in Alberta.

For more information, contact the museum at (780) 312-2065 or email reynoldsalbertamuseum@gov.ab.ca

You can also connect with the Reynolds-Alberta Museum on social media by checking out:

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