Theatre boss gives premier rotten tomatoes for keeping Ontario drive-ins closed

Sunset Barrie among several properties run by Premier Theatres

Brian Allen did not like the script presented by Premier Doug Ford last week when the government reopened outdoor amenities including golf courses and tennis courts but kept drive-ins shuttered.

Allen, president of Toronto-based Premier Theatres, owns five drive-ins in Ontario including Sunset Barrie on Line 4 in Oro-Medonte Township.

“Once you have a seasonal business, you only have so many weeks to make the revenue for that,” he said.

Allen figures he will have lost 40 per cent of his revenue when drive-ins reopen.

“We have a short summer here and we have already lost all of April, all of May, and it’s disheartening,” he added.

Allen said he wouldn’t be pressing the government to reopen if he didn’t think it was safe.

“I am no anti-vaxxer and I am no Liberatarian. I believe in government’s role and what they’re doing, but I just think they are picking and choosing businesses.”

Allen said at his drive-ins, cars are separated three metres apart. He said doing that cut their attendance in half last season.

Customers who need to use the washroom must wear a mask and there are attendants at the entrances.

The playgrounds are closed.

Each of Allen’s theatres have automated concessions and ticket booths. Aside from a stretch or use of the washroom, Allen said there is no need for patrons to get out of their cars.

While there have been financial supports to businesses impacted by the pandemic from various levels of government, Allen said he has not received one dime from the province.

“We’re not big enough to get the huge grants and we’re not small enough to get small business grants. We’ve been basically doing it on our own.”

Under the Ford government’s new three-step plan, Allen’s chain of screens won’t likely reopen until the week of June 14, as they are part of Step 1.

As COVID-19 cases in Ontario continue to decline, Allen is hopeful the government might reconsider and allow drive-ins to screen movies sooner than later.

Allen owns most of his properties, so from that end he believes he will be okay.

The uncertainty has resulted in a hit to the bottom line and some job cuts.

“It’s just exhausting,” said Allen, “not being able to start your business and not knowing when.”