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This article was published 24/5/2015 (2315 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON — One of Manitoba’s last drive-in theatres, the Shamrock in Killarney, will go dark this summer.
Last week, owner Joanne Struss posted on the drive-in’s Facebook page that, due to the scarcity of movies released on 35-millimetre film, the drive-in would not open this season, although they hope to reopen in the future.
"We want to keep this going. We really love doing it as a family. I love watching movies under the stars," Struss said.
The Struss family has owned the Shamrock Drive-In, which has existed for more than 50 years, for the last four years. When they bought it, they knew the death of 35-millimetre film was imminent but still wanted to try to keep the drive-in open.
Struss, who was living in Winnipeg when her family bought the drive-in in 2011, grew up in the Killarney area and has fond memories of summer nights watching movies under the stars. Her husband, Darren, told her the idea was crazy, but the next morning he called her from work and told her to ask about leasing the drive-in.
When Joanne contacted David Gibson, whose family had owned the drive-in since 1959, she was told there was no chance of leasing it but they could buy it.
The family soon packed up and moved to Killarney.
The Strusses set up their camper at the drive-in and for the last four years have been living out of it and the concession building while building a house on site for the themselves and their nine children. They also purchased the car wash in Killarney.
The Strusses looked into upgrading the projection system to digital but were priced out when they discovered the cost of the digital system had risen to $98,000.
The Strusses couldn’t afford that and began hunting online for a used digital system. Over the years, they have come across some reasonably priced units, but they haven’t been able to purchase them because the movie companies only allow certain brands to be used.
Darren even went so far as to build his own digital unit. However, the movie companies forbid them from using it because there was a chance something could be hooked up to the projector to copy the film.
Even this year, the Strusses thought they had a chance to keep the drive-in running.
The drive-in obtained a copy of Cinderella on 35-millimetre film from the U.S. and played it during the May long weekend.
But last week, Joanne looked into the chances of getting a few copies of other movies on 35-millimetre film and found them difficult to obtain.
The Strusses found in previous years that it took them about a month before they earned a profit at the drive-in and with so few films available, it would be difficult to make a profit this year. So they made the decision to close the drive-in this year.
They had already promised to showing a movie during the VW car show in Killarney on Aug. 15, so Joanne plans to honour that commitment and is hoping she will be able to play Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Former owner Gibson said the closing of the drive-in is a major loss to the community. He said people from as far as Winnipeg and the U.S. would come each summer for a weekend just to see a movie at the drive-in. They would camp in the town and eat at the restaurants, bringing tourism money.
"It’s the end of era, that’s for sure... but all eras come to an end. But I still think the town could and should make an arrangement with the Strusses to put the money in to buy the equipment needed to keep the drive-in open," Gibson said.
Since the announcement, people in the community have talked about holding fundraisers. The Strusses plan to keep searching for a used digital projection unit to purchase.
"I would honestly feel that I’ve failed in some way, that I’ve failed the community if we couldn’t keep it going," Joanne said.
There are only two other drive-ins in Manitoba: the Stardust in Morden and Big Island in Flin Flon.
— Brandon Sun