Go Digital Or Go Dark

[Author's note; I am in no way affiliated with Kingston Family Fun World. This is not a sponsored post. I just care, is all]

I don't care about much. There are few things that I am willing to lend my name, and more importantly my money, to. Causes tend to be fashionable, and it is rare that one comes along that actually inspires real passion in me. The Tesla museum was one that moved me. This is another. To anyone not in South Eastern Ontario, this post may mean very little. Come back later, and maybe you'll find something more to your liking.

The Drive-in movie theatre on McAdoo Lane, Kingston Ontario, currently known under the banner of Kingston Family Fun World, has been there for 47 years. It is one of only 50-odd remaining in the whole of Canada. It has three screens, showing two movies on each screen every night during the summer, with the occasional all nighter. Time was, it was open between Victoria and Labour Days, but thanks to global warming, the season now falls anywhere between Easter and Halloween. And it's one of my favourite places in the world.

This may seem odd to you, considering all the other places there are in the world, but movies occupy that place in my heart where other people keep religion, or close personal relationships, or cats. I love movies, and I have seen many of them at the Kingston Drive-in over the years. It is no hyperbole to say that during the summer months, 90% of the films I see, I see in my car, with the soundtrack blasting out of my radio, and a mosquito net over the window. Currently, they use 35mm film projectors for all three screens. Due to the move in the industry towards almost exclusively delivering movies on digital, the future of the Drive-in, and many other independent theatres around the world, are in jeopardy. Because, despite the move, the equipment needed to convert film theatres into digital is enormously expensive. And the blockbusters that bring in the crowds are no longer being made available on 35mm. It is a case of convert, or die.

According to the Drive-in, the total cost of converting all three screens is over a quarter million dollars, for equipment and climatized rooms needed to operate the equipment, a staggering and crippling number for independent owners (more, they claim, then it cost to purchase and operate the three film projectors for the past 23 years). Chains like AMC or Cineplex can afford this cost, but privately run theatres cannot, and they are closing in heart breaking numbers (the North York Drive-in in Sharon, Ontario did not open this season after 58 years in operation). In an effort to continue to operate, the Drive-in has begun a charity campaign they are calling "Go Digital or Go Dark." It does exactly what it says on the tin. If the Drive-in is unable to raise the necessary funds to make the transition to digital, it will not open for the 2014 season. And that is unacceptable.

Their primary goal is to raise $80,000 towards the conversion of the main screen, a Goliath thing seen above, through community support. There is no overhead, and all donations will go towards the conversion. The hope is that support will exceed this amount, and work could begin on converting the other two screens. To incentivize the community (and businesses looking for advertising partners), packages have been made available, ranging from $10 to $2000, and offering a variety of movie passes, concession vouchers and passes for the go-karts, batting cages and mini putt that are also part of the Fun World park, for the second half of this season, and extending into the presumed next year. Donations are available online, or in person at a display within the concession building. I have made a donation already, and intend on continuing to donate whatever I can whenever I attend. It is the least I can do for a location that has provided me many happy memories.

My earliest of the Drive-in was back when it was the single, solitary main screen, looming over the Kingston skyline on top of McAdoo. The film was Disney's animated Jungle Book, though I cannot confirm that this memory is real, or cobbled together from a dozen such outings. I remember being curled up in the backseat of my parent's Buick, being lulled to sleep by whatever film was on second showing that night, in those days the sound coming from a talk-box mounted on a post next to the car. The posts are still there, but the talk-boxes are long gone, having been replaced by radio transmitters, and limiting the number of bug bites you need to fend off. I remember getting my driver's license, and going by myself for the first time, I can't remember to see what. I doesn't matter, really. I'll see anything once. And because of the schedule for first and second showings, I've seen many films a second or third time at the Drive-in. I make no complaints.

The movies blur together, but I remember are all the various Batmen I've seen on those screens. I recall seeing dinosaurs come back to life, and gods and heroes standing side by side, and Mel Gibson acting crazy, back when he got paid for that sort of thing. I've watched animation, action, comedy, everything. I've left the park in the early hours of the morning, and drained more then one battery keeping my radio going. Kingston is a place I've lived in, I've lived near, and lived far away from. But every time I'm there, and the nights are warm and the movies are playing, that's where I am. Drive-in's aren't some hold over from a bygone era, they are just another way to experience the wonder and joy that is going to the movies.

If you live in or near Kingston, and have gone to the Drive-in at any point in the last near half century, you should donate. If you've never went to the Drive-in, fix this. Bundle yourself up, take a blanket and a pillow, gather up the kids, or grab your special someone, or just go by yourself. Get yourself a slushie and some popcorn (or funnel cake, they have funnel cake now!), and settle in for a late night under the stars. What could be better then that?

And then donate. Help keep this wonderful place open. Because if it leaves, it's another sort of magic killed in the name of progress. And I think progress has killed more then it's fair share of magic, don't you?

Via Kingston Family Fun World. Donate here.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. Thank you for that wonderful story, It is stories like that keeping me trying.


    Dan Wannemacher
    owner Kingston Family Funworld