Aug. 26: Sunset Barrie Drive-In, Oro-Medonte ON

Black and white aerial photo of the three screens and viewing areas

Photo from the Sunset Barrie Facebook page

It’s Day 238 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my 13th in Ontario. From Gravenhurst to the Sunset Barrie Drive-In Theatre in Oro-Medonte, the drive was about 45 minutes.

The Sunset Barrie used to be the Barrie Triple, but that drive-in’s origins are hidden in the kind of historical records that you can’t reach over the internet. One complication is the fact that the drive-in is older than Oro-Medonte, which was formed when Oro and Medonte merged in 1994. That township is just outside the fairly populous city of Barrie.

Barrie had a drive-in by 1953, the Huronia, according to that year’s Motion Picture Almanac. Based on the almanac’s ownership listings, the drive-in probably changed hands at least once by the end of the 1960s.

In 1971, Robert Stinson formed Stinson Theatres, starting with a “two-screen drive-in theatre in Barrie“. By that time, the almanacs had ceased listing the Huronia in lieu of the Barrie Drive-In. Since the two drive-ins had the same capacity, my guess is that Stinson rebranded the Huronia when he acquired it.

The Orillia Packet checked in with the Barrie Triple in 2008, not long after the founding Stinson had passed away. At that point, the drive-in was run by Robert’s sons, Henry and Tim. Henry said, “There is a loose plan for a fourth screen at the Barrie location, but first the playground is going to be updated.”

That fourth screen never went up. In 2011, Stinson Theatres sold the drive-in to Premier Operating Corporation, who renamed it the Sunset Barrie. “We’re actually more retro than most places,” Premier comptroller Chris Bilinski told the Studio Scoop. “We start with O Canada before the movie starts and we play old cartoons like Woody Woodpecker.”

Miles Today / Total: 43 / 27972 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: The Hitman’s Bodyguard / 152

Nearby Restaurant: You’d never guess the speciality of the Grilled Cheese Social Eatery. Or maybe you would. It wasn’t my first grilled cheese restaurant of the year, but it was definitely worth the visit. I ordered The King, with peanut butter, banana, cream cheese, honey, and jam. Thank you very much.

Where I Virtually Stayed: After exceeding my lodging budget the night before, I was happy to find one of the better Super 8 locations in Barrie. The hotel had an indoor pool. My room came with the full set of modern amenities. There was even a hot breakfast with omelettes, better than a lot of Super 8s. All at a price that helped my budget catch up with me.

Only in Oro-Medonte: In next-door Barrie, they filmed the final challenge for the 2007 season of the long-running reality show Canada’s Worst Driver. Jason Zhang “won” the honor for his dangerous performance, stopping in the middle of a highway. As a result, he surrendered his driving license and gave up driving permanently.

Next stop: Stardust Drive-In Theatre, Sharon ON.

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