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This article was published 18/8/2021 (281 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
East Kildonan once had its own drive-in movie theatre called the Eldorado Drive-In.
It was located on land bounded by Henderson Highway and Brazier Street, between Lord Wolseley School and the Curtis Hotel, an area now occupied by the Northdale Shopping Centre.
Opening on June 29, 1950,the Eldorado was built at a cost of $170,000 and was advertised as the largest drive-in theatre in Canada at the time, with a capacity of 720 cars. The screen was 20 metres by 19 metres with concrete piles set almost three metres into the ground, designed to withstand winds of 320 k/h. Its lot featured a holding area for cars to help with traffic problems on Henderson Highway, with exits on both Henderson Highway and Brazier Street.
There was also a kiddies’ playground on the site with slides, teeter-totters and sandboxes for young children bored with the movie. The site also included a monkey village with animals borrowed from the Assiniboine Park Zoo. It also had a large concession bar to meet the needs of its patrons.
The advertising slogan was "a little bit of the west in East Kildonan,’’ with the western theme emphasized by all employees wearing cowboy outfits.
The first movie to play the opening night was the western Tulsa, with adults charged 60 cents, while children 12 to 16 paid 25 cents, and children under 12 were admitted free.
During the first couple of years of the Eldorado’s existence there were frequent traffic tie-ups on Henderson, with the line of automobiles waiting to enter sometimes reaching as far south as Melbourne Avenue.
There are stories of people hiding in the trunks of cars being driven into the theatre with just one person in the passenger section and the rear of the car almost dragging on the ground. A theatre employee would then hang around in sight of the suspicious vehicle, not allowing the people in the trunk to get out.
After a while, someone would usually yell out "Get me out of here!" As many as four people would pile out of the trunk and sheepishly pay the proper admission price.
After the first two years, drive-in attendance dropped off, to the point that in the Eldorado’s last year of operation, 1955, free admission was brought in, with food and drink being the only source of revenue. Unfortunately, the move failed and the Eldorado was forced to close.
Jim Smith is a community correspondent for Elmwood, East Kildonan and North Kildonan. Email him at email@example.com