British Columbia

Cariboo community builds drive-in theatre as a safe social option during pandemic

A new drive-in movie theatre has been built in the Interlakes region of B.C.'s Interior.

Organizer hopes it will become a seasonal attraction for community

Residents of the Interlakes region in B.C. have been very supportive of the new drive-in movie theatre, which was instigated by restaurant owner Sandi Sillito. (Submitted/Sandi Sillito)

Like many British Columbians, restaurant owner Sandy Sillito was left with extra time on her hands thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. She made the most of it to start up a project she'd had in the back of her mind for years — a drive-in movie theatre for the people of the Cariboo's Interlakes region. 

Sillito and fellow members of the community, which is around 110 kilometres northwest of Kamloops, have built a wooden screen measuring about 4.8 metres by 4.2 metres on which to project movies. 

"I thought about it in the past but never really had the time or inclination to move forward with it," Sillito said. "I found myself with both."

Local contractors and the hardware store donated the materials needed to build the screen, and the Interlakes Economic Society paid for the white paint. Another contracting company helped excavate the land around the screen. 

"Everybody's more than willing to pitch in," Sillito said.

A drive-in theatre screen build by volunteers has been put up in the Interlakes region, just off Highway 24. (Submitted/Sandi Sillito)

She also partnered with the owner of the local movie theatre, which has been closed through the pandemic, to ensure she could get the proper licensing for films. 

So far they've played classics like Jurassic Park and Stand By Me. Entry is by donation, because Sillito doesn't want cost to prevent a family from going out to enjoy a movie. Donations go toward paying for the fees to show the films, and leftovers go back to the Interlake Economic Society. 

Local contractors and business owners pitched in to bring a drive-in theatre to the Cariboo. (Submitted/Lynn Gerwig)

The theatre has accounted for the limit of 50 vehicles imposed by the provincial health officer, and is also limiting the number of people in each vehicle to six. It's asking anyone showing flu-like symptoms to stay at home.

Sillito said it takes her five minutes to set up for a film, and five minutes to clean up afterwards.

She said the response from the community has been great — both in terms of helping build it and coming out to enjoy films. 

"It's just something a little bit different," Sillito said. "It's something that you can maintain [physical] distance with."

"People aren't getting to see their neighbours and friends and family, and even though we're not sitting together having dinner, we can still socially distance, open our windows, holler across to each other, that kind of thing," Sillito said. 

She hopes the drive-in will continue into early fall before closing for winter, and starting up again next spring. 

With files from Jenifer Norwell

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