The Brookfield Drive-In Theatre
Tobins Road, Mount Pearl
Located off Tobin's Road in St. John's are the remains of the last drive-in movie theatre in Newfoundland. Between 1973 and 1992 the unique theatre was a favorite location for children and adults alike. Each night a movie was projected on the enormous screen, hundreds of people would come out and sit in their cars to watch a wide diversity of movie genres each night. The place gained alot of fans and admirers during the years it was open and everyone in the community were saddened when the theatre came to a sudden closure in the fall of 1992.
The screen of the theatre was constructed in 1973 by a US-based businessman named Chuck Baldwin. The theatre was said to have a capacity of 610 cars and it was not an uncommon site to see the theatre filled to its max in its early days. During this time in the early 1970s cost ranged from $1.75 to $3.50 per person. The theatre was known to show a wide range of movies that were suitable for people of all ages.
Of course being located in St. John's meant that the theatre was constantly competing against the weather. At times when the weather was to bad for a movie to be shown (such as the infamous St. John's fog), free passes were available for those who had bought tickets earlier. These tickets quickly became known as "Fog Passes".
Photo Credit: The Scope "The Brookfield Drive-in" by: Erin McKee
The drive-in experience was one that was loved by many. But after the opening of the Brookfield Drive-In it wasn't long before VCR's and home theatres began rising in popularity. This was and still is devastating for the theatre tradition. The popularity of the drive-in slowly declined over the years it operated. Because of this prices began to rise and reported to have been $7.00 by 1986.
The drive-in movie theatre came to a surprising halt on October 10, 1992. The Telegram reported that "the screens support post were torn from their underground concrete anchor and parts of the screen were blown into the field behind the drive in" during a major wind and ice storm the previous night.
Part of the screen came very close to landing on Pitts Memorial Drive which would have posed a major safety hazard to motorist. Baldwin had planned to open the drive-in the following year but due to financial reasons decided not to.
After the Drive-In Closed
After its abrupt closure in 1992 nothing was done with the land the drive-in sat on. The boarded up snack bar, projection booth, and speaker poles remained standing until 2003. At 7:00 PM on October 3 two pumper trucks were called to an apparent bush fire in the relative vicinity of the old drive-in.
When they arrived they found that the canteen located in the centre of the property was on fire. Sadly the trucks were forced to stop 200 metres away from the blaze due to boulders pushed in the roadway to stop vehicles from entering. After finally getting a local excavator to shift the rocks the fire fighters arrived to the smoldering remains of the building and were to late to save it.
The canteen had become a popular hang out spot for teenagers and so the fire was investigated to determine if the fire was accidental or not. Electricity was ruled out as the cause as the power was cut from the site after problems arose with an electrical panel several years before. During this time the Telegram did a story on the drive-in and after interviewing many people it was clear that everyone was disappointed to hear the news of the fire because of the large role the drive-in played in many lives around the city and surrounding area.
The Telegram "Blaze Levels Canteen at Former Drive-In" Oct. 3, 2003
About the Area Today
The drive-in theatre was once the most popular in Newfoundland. Today it is grown over in alders and tall grass. The ticket both at the entrance to the field is still standing but has taken a beating from the weather over the years. No parts of the screen can be seen in the area and all thats left of the projection room and canteen is a concrete foundation and scrap metal that the building was once made of. Many of the speaker post have been removed and piled around the area and can still be seen their today.
Little remains to be seen at the Brookfield Drive-In today. The ticket booth and remaining speaker poles are all that remains to a theatre that once meant so much to so many. Many are saddened over the closure and neglect of the theatre over the years and although the site is rapidly disappearing, the memories that were created here will remain for much much longer.
Sources & Further Exploring
Bennett, T. B. (2003, October 3). Blaze Levels Canteen at Former Drive-In. The Telegram. Gullage, P. (1990, August 12). The Drive-In Revisited. Retrieved from Memorial University’s Center for Newfoundland Studies.
Gullage, P. (1990, August 12). The Drive-In Revisited. The Sunday Express. Retrieved from Memorial University’s Center for Newfoundland Studies.
McKee, E. (2008, January 31). The Brookfield Drive-In. The Scope. Retrieved from http://thescope.ca/nooks/the-brookfield-drive-in.
The Telegram (1992, October 10). Drive-In Screen Trashed. Retrieved from Memorial University’s Center for Newfoundland Studies.