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Nova Scotia’s Valley Drive-In celebrating 20 seasons of movies under the stars

The Valley Drive-In Theatre has entertained audiences for the past 20 seasons.
The Valley Drive-In Theatre has entertained audiences for the past 20 seasons. - Contributed

The 20th season of operations for the only remaining drive-in on Mainland Nova Scotia is getting mixed reviews from the operators.

“Our season did not start well but has had a strong finish. It has been a successful season all the way around. But it has been the most challenging season we have ever had,” Kirk Longmire, co-chair of the Valley Drive-In, located in Cambridge, told The Harvester in a recent interview.

Longmire recounted how torrential rains in February caused flooding that meant the usual opening on the first weekend in May had to be delayed for two weeks.

“We were flooded out by the torrential rains we got in February. We spent the next three months getting back to being able to operate. The entire projection building had to be ripped apart and rebuilt and reorganized before we could open. So, we had substantial pressure on us at the beginning. Normally, people are anxious to get out and come to the drive-in because it means summer is coming. But it was the worst start we ever had. It was only with the help of the municipality of Kings that we could get there,” Longmire said.

Fortunately, the improvements to the property prevented further damage and delays when strong winds and rain swept through the Valley recently.

“Hurricane Dorian was a non-event for us,” Longmire said.

“We always wondered what might happen because the big screen is like a big sail. But we sustained no damage. The drainage that was put in for the spring flooding did exactly what it was supposed to do. We had no water in the building, and the parking lot drained within two days of the storm.”

Longmire, who was the original chairman of the drive-in project when it began in 2000, described The Valley Drive-In as a social enterprise owned and operated by the local Lion's Club, with the property owned by and leased from the Municipality of Kings.

“It was started 20 years ago with the idea that it wasn’t about generating profit for anybody. It was about the Lions Club trying to employ youth to run the thing and the canteen, and to provide a venue where families and people could come and have an experience that is affordable in a safe place and a fun place.”

He said nostalgia might be keeping moviegoers rolling in every weekend.

“I think at the end of the day people like the idea of that time in our past when times were a little slower. People connected a little differently. I think that resonates with people. Everyone has that nostalgic feeling of going back to Mayberry.”

The drive-in experience still attracts a crowd, even in the digital age.

“It resonates with families. It’s a place where they can come and get away from some of those other devices. We don’t have WIFI on purpose for that very reason. We want people to connect in a human way, not necessarily just in a digital way.”

And, he believes being able to sit in your car gives you a lot more freedom when you are watching a movie than sitting next to somebody in a movie theatre.

Longmire said he was looking forward to attracting a large crowd for the Battle of the Drive-Ins Trick or Treat Weekend, which was held Sept. 27-29. The Valley Drive-In competed with the other drive-ins in Atlantic Canada for the title of Atlantic Canada's Best Drive-In, based on crowd size during the three nights. The Valley Drive-In won the title for the second time last year.

As part of the contest sponsors handed out treats to children dressed in Halloween costumes.

The final event of the season will feature a Retro Horror Movie on Friday, Oct. 4.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Longmire said. “For the last 20 years, I have been able to work on a unique project. There is no other project like it in Atlantic Canada. We have only found one other drive-in in Canada that is run by a not-for-profit.”

“It’s certainly been a truly entrepreneurial experience. But one that has benefitted the community in every way. I’m pretty proud of that.”

More information is available at valleydrivein.com and [email protected]. The Movie Line is 902-538-0772.

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