Aug. 24: Midland Drive-In, Midland ON

Aerial view of the Midland Drive-In at sunset

Photo from the Midland Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 236 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my 11th in Ontario. It took two hours to drive the narrow coastline highways from the Owen Sound Drive-In, which is in Owen Sound of course, to the Midland Drive-In, which is in Midland of course.

This is the section of my virtual visit where I normally tell of the history of this drive-in theatre. When it comes to the Midland, I’ve found very little to talk about. The 1953-54 Motion Picture Almanac lists it with a capacity of 300 cars and owned by “Theatre Amuse.” The same owner was there in 1959, and in 1963 was listed as Regional. The car capacity bumped up to 404 by 1972. That very specific number suggests it’s a speaker count; I’ll bet the Midland added another row.

Most of the rest of my knowledge of the Midland’s history comes from a Midland Mirror story from 2008 (retrieved via the Internet Archive). The article said the Babcock family had owned and operated the drive-in since 1982. That’s when brothers Dave and Paul Babcock bought the drive-in along with the town’s indoor theater. When Paul and Dave passed away (in 2005 and 2006 respectively), the drive-in went to their wives, who asked Dave’s children and their spouses to take over.

“The Midland Drive-In has never needed a park playground,” the Mirror wrote. “(P)eople bring Frisbees, footballs, baseballs and mitts, bubbles and sparklers for between shows.” The owners were proud of their freshly upgraded FM sound, although the speaker poles persist to this day.

Movie-Theatre.org says that the Midland “was taken over by Ontario Drive-Ins in 2010.” And that’s about the end of what I know. You can see by the difference in this 2003 Cinema Tour photo and an October 2016 Google Street View that management added a second moveable-type sign to the back of the screen tower between then and now.

The Midland snack bar features “The Indecisive Special – A Combo For Those Who Can’t Decide”. It includes onion rings, deep-fried pickles, and French fries, which can be upgraded to poutine.

Movies show here on Fridays through Sundays, then the following Thursday, which is why I picked a Carload Thursday to visit. My movie, for the third time, was Girls Trip. It’s really not that bad, especially when I’m eating indecisively.

Miles Today / Total: 77 / 27873 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Girls Trip / 150

Nearby Restaurant: When in search of comfort food, could any name be more alluring than Mom’s Restaurant? I enjoyed the chicken and ribs special of the day, complete with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, in a comfortable, relaxed setting.

Where I Virtually Stayed: Once again I got lucky with a mom and pop hotel with a very reasonable price. The Kings Inn looks pretty humble, but my queen bed room had solid wifi, a mini-fridge and a microwave. The money I saved worked great at the breakfast joints within walking distance.

Only in Midland: Every June, Midland hosts the Butter Tart Festival. This year, the one-day festival attracted 50,000 visitors and sold over 163,000 butter tarts, so it must be okay to go back for seconds. Although the best in show was a pecan tart, the All-Ontario champ was a maple rhubarb apple tart. Sure wish I could find one of those.

Next stop: Muskoka Drive-In, Gravenhurst ON.

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