Gate House Theatre is taking cinema to the streets.
The Port McNeill movie theater and performing arts space received a $15,000 grant from Island Coastal Economic Trust towards purchasing an outdoor movie projector, complete with an FM transmitter for sound. It wasn’t enough to cover the whole purchase, but with donations and contributions they got enough.
The grant was available for small businesses whose income had been disrupted by the coronavirus, to use towards generating a new income stream. For Gate House, a drive-in theatre was the obvious choice – it’s naturally socially distant, and Port McNeill has never had one before.
The system has been ordered and is en route from “somewhere far away,” said Cheryl Hamilton, who applied for the grant on behalf of Gate House. They expect it to arrive in late August, and to host the first outdoor movie in early September.
Hamilton said the frequency of shows will movies will depend on the popularity of the idea.
Old-school drive-in movies are hard to find — only three permanent sites exist in B.C. — but digital technology has made portable outdoor screens possible. They’ve become popular at public events used for movies, of course ads, and to stream community sporting events to spectators.
For now, Gate House will use the system the old-fashioned way – viewers ensconced in their cars, tuned into the FM radio for movie audio.
When the projector screen is not being used by Gate House, Hamilton sees an opportunity to rent out the fully mobile system to nearby towns or organizations.
With safe distancing and the finances taken care of, the weather will be Gate House’s biggest challenge. Sun, wind and rain can single-handedly derail an outdoor movie night.
READ MORE: Arts and tourism projects on Vancouver Island receive funding for restart initiatives
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Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette