P.E.I.'s Brackley Drive-In plans to reopen May 22

The Brackley Drive-In plans to reopen May 22, and when it does, some big changes will be in place to keep everyone safe.

Big changes to viewing experience because of COVID-19

Bob Boyle, owner of the Brackley Drive-In, said the number of spots available at the theatre have been cut in half to encourage physical distancing. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

P.E.I.'s Brackley Drive-In Theatre is planning to reopen May 22, and some big changes have been made to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. 

The first big change is the amount of vehicles allowed into the theatre. The drive-in cut the number of available spots for physical distancing. In total, the theatre cut its capacity to about 170 vehicles, down from about 300, according to owner Bob Boyle.

Attendants will guide Islanders to parking spots. When parked, Islanders will still hear music played over the theatre's speakers, but it will be accompanied by COVID-19 messaging, reiterating the importance of physical distancing. 

And when the movie starts, that music and messaging will stop and the movie audio will only be heard on the radio.

"If you don't have sound outside, there's no real purpose to sit outside or to try and sit out front in the grass area in front of the screen," said Boyle. 

"So, by keeping the sound inside the vehicle, that automatically keeps people inside their vehicle."

People will still be allowed to sit in the beds of their trucks or directly behind their vehicle in the spot, said Boyle.

The drive-in used to allow two vehicles per spot, but now drivers will be instructed to park with their driver's door next to a marker, ensuring distance between the vehicles. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

The theatre also eliminated the outdoor seating and the playground to encourage people to stay in their cars.

And around the grounds, there will be more spots for customers to wash their hands. 

"We've instituted changes such as hand washing stations at each entrance into the canteen as well as an extra hand washing station outside the ladies washroom just so it's not congested," said Boyle. 

"Inside the washrooms we've had to eliminate some of the stalls so that there's now a limit of two people per bathroom at a time."

The drive-in does have family washrooms for those who need them. Boyle said those facilities will be cleaned more frequently.

Let's all go to the lobby? 

The canteen experience will also be different. Plexiglass has been installed and the theatre will be limiting the number of people in the snack bar at once — only six customers will be allowed in the building at a time, three in each line on either side of the building. 

The theatre will also have the now-familiar stickers outside the canteen to make sure people are physical distancing in line. Because the canteen line will mostly be outdoors, the normal stickers found on the floor of Island retailers won't work as well, so Boyle got creative.

Paint can lids will be spiked into the ground with social-distancing stickers on top.

Bob Boyle pulls the protective plastic off the snack bar's new barriers installed to keep staff safe. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

Boyle said the menu was changed to quickly get people in and out of the snack bar. With a limited menu, only one size of popcorn, fries and drinks being offered. 

"We've taken out all the self-serve, like ketchup, mustard — all of that stuff. We've had to go to prepackaged," said Boyle. 

If Islanders want butter on their popcorn, Boyle said they'll have to ask for it.

"We're going back to old school, the way we used to do it here," he said. 

'A joy to see it back on the big screen'

With COVID-19 disrupting the film industry, Boyle said a big challenge is getting movies to screen at the drive-in. 

The first weekend, May 22, two films will be shown. The movies are geared toward a more mature audience, and Boyle said that was done purposely.

"When we're working out our first weekend, we didn't want to involve young children so that we can fine tune any of the policies that we need to with adults in," he said.

Going forward though, the theatre will have more movies for children and a mixture of newer movies with old classics. Expect films like Jurassic Park on the screen.

Boyle said he expects those classic films to draw people out. 

"Many people have never seen those films that are a decade back on the big screen and it'll be a joy to see it back on the big screen," said Boyle. 

Boyle said the drive-in is also considering letting their customers pick the movies for some weekends through an online poll. 

The drive-in is also looking at hosting a number of other events this summer, from high school graduations to weddings. Boyle said they already have the first wedding booked for October.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Cough.

  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.


Travis Kingdon is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. He moved to the Island from Toronto in the spring of 2019.