South Shore Drive-In showcases community connectivity

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>The drive-in at 1519 on the old Highway No. 3 in Mill Village will be showing movies weekly, partly as a fundraiser.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Movies at the South Shore Drive In are shown on a 20 foot by 40 foot screen and transmitted through the attending vehicles&#8217; FM radios.</p>

"The show much go on" has been a rallying cry in the entertainment industry for a long time, but for the small community of Mill Village in Queens county it's been a particularly poignant one amid the pandemic.

"We had a lot of people wanting us to bring it back," says Catherine Croft, referring to the drive-in movie nights that she and her husband, Jason, used to hold as fundraisers for the local school.

An active volunteer within the Queens community who specializes in event planning, Croft was aware that people were dealing with anxiety and depression during the pandemic and the social distancing it has involved.

"It was like, 'Well, what can I create that was within our COVID-19 restrictions, but yet us still be a community and neighbours? '" she recalled to LighthouseNOW. "I've been sitting on this drive-in for five years since the school closed, so I said, 'Let's do this again.'"

On the night of July 4, occupants in 22 vehicles pulled up to the new South Shore Drive In at 1519 on the old Highway No. 3 in Mill Village. There they watched the spoof science fiction movie, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, on a 20 foot by 40 foot screen erected outside the old Pole Star building.

There were a number of protocols employed to meet health regulations, according to Croft, who said the washroom was cleaned after every use, safe-distancing was required at the concession stand, and she and her husband were wearing masks and face shields while serving customers.

There was no cooked food such as hot dogs or hamburgers, though there was hot buttered microwave popcorn, and other treats that were individually wrapped.

The movie's sound was transmitted on FM through the vehicles' radios, which the couple had figured out how to do and what was permissible, as Croft put it, through "research, research, research."

"We can FM transmit for about, and this is through the woods, 1.2 kilometres away of sound," said Croft.

Currently the building houses equipment for the Mill Village volunteer fire department, and the non-profit South Shore Drive In is sharing the proceeds from the $10/vehicle ticket sales.

Croft says that in future other organizations might use the concession service for their own fundraising.

The plan is to offer a similar drive-in movie service on site at the Hank Snow RV park next year. Meanwhile, using ACF Films as their distributor, the Queens couple plans on hosting the movie nights weekly during the summer.

"I think so many people cancelling events, us too with Privateer Days, the Big Ex... How do we become a community together? How do we still do this?" Croft wondered.

"I think normal doesn't exist any more. I think we have to look at new ways of connecting our neighbours and our community and I look at this as one of them," she said.

Perhaps appropriate in its title, the film chosen for July 11 was the light-hearted science fiction film, Back to the Future.

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