Barrie-area drive-in making plans for the season with COVID-19 in mind

Sunset Barrie exploring online concession orders and ticket sales

David Hayes is confident people will want a night out under the stars at the movies when there is a loosening of COVID-19 restrictions and the general manager of Sunset Barrie Drive-in Theatre is preparing for what the new normal will look like.

The drive-in has been a fixture off Highway 11 on Line 4 in Oro-Medonte since the early 60s and went to three screens in 1979.

Hayes said he hopes when the province moves to the second phase of opening businesses that drive-ins will be included.

He is still getting his head around what changes will be necessary as a result of the pandemic. Hayes is exploring online ticketing similar to what is done at Cineplex. He will likely have limited concessions and instead will encourage people to order food and drinks online from their cars and the order will be delivered to them. Hayes said people will be given a sheet when they come in with a list of items to choose from and the posts will be marked so staff know where to find the vehicle.

At least for the first while and depending on what guidelines he gets from the province, Hayes plans to operate at about 50 per cent capacity.

“The drive-in can hold 1,015 vehicles and I will likely allow half that. Cars will have to park between the posts which will give them 10 to 12 feet between each vehicle rather than side by side. Posts will be also be numbered. I really don’t see any other way.”

There will be additional hand sanitizers throughout the facility and possibly extra washrooms to support distancing. Hayes said his first priority is the safety of customers and staff.

The drive-in normally starts the season in mid-March and goes through October.

Hayes said streaming is their biggest competition and he feels people will have had their fill of it by the time the drive-in can do business again.

“I am looking forward to the season safely starting, to help society come back and to give local people their jobs. People want to get out and get an outdoor experience.”

Exactly what films can Hayes screen? COVID-19 has shut down Hollywood and California’s stay-at-home order is in effect until at least May 15, with the most optimistic prediction of production restarts in July or August, even September. Hayes said until Hollywood ramps up, the drive-in will likely screen movie classics.