It’s Day 239 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my 14th in Ontario. Swinging around Lake Simcoe, it took just over an hour to drive from the township of Oro-Medonte to the Stardust Drive-In Theatre in the former village of Sharon just north of the town of Newmarket. Sharon is now part of the municipality of the Town of East Gwillimbury. Few things make me feel more out of place then trying to figure out the cities and stuff up here.
The Stardust began its life in 1955 as the North York Drive In Theatre. According to a 2000 Toronto Star article captured here (PDF), “the theatre isn’t even close to North York any more. Political boundaries moved, but the theatre didn’t.” (I tell you, this system of shifting townships and stuff is making me crazy. But I digress.)
That Star article said that Clifford Murrell’s dad built the North York when Clifford was 18. (The Motion Picture Almanac lists the owner back then as C.E. Murrell.) They had added two more screens in the 1980s and were considering adding a fourth.
Clifford was 71 years old in 2013 when the North York announced via Facebook that it wouldn’t be opening that season. “Unfortunately due to development and changes to digital film we are unable to continue the tradition this year,” the post said. I wrote about that sad story at the time.
I didn’t notice that a month or two later, in swooped Premier Theatres, who bought the place, upgraded the projection system, and renamed it the Stardust Drive-In Newmarket. Chris Bilinski told YorkRegion.com his company leased the property, and wouldn’t be investing as much as for the properties it owns. “Are you going to put chandeliers up in a house you rent?” he said. “It will be a better looking drive-in than what it was, but we don’t own the property, so we can’t invest crazily.”
And that’s where we are now. YorkRegion.com ran another article on the Stardust earlier this month, describing the experience through the eyes of a young father having to sit through my pick for worst film of the year. “Finally, the utterly forgettable Emoji movie came on, the script of which must have been dreamed up in some ad manager’s office. But even though the movie was bad, we were still outside under the stars with a full moon hovering behind our screen.”
The YouTube video of the day is an interesting fisheye lens view of the Stardust. The twilight shots of the screen are especially colorful.
Miles Today / Total: 38 / 28010 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: The Hitman’s Bodyguard / 153
Nearby Restaurant: Always on the lookout for unusual cuisine, I was happy to stumble onto The Goulash House. They put a Hungarian spin on their menu, but I recognized the “cooked smoked pork hock” on the menu for the Schweinshaxe that it was. So nice to find one of my favorite dishes, no matter what they call it.
Where I Virtually Stayed: The closest hotels are in Newmarket, and I chose the Best Western Voyageur Place Hotel, across the street from the Upper Canada Mall. My queen bed room had a mini-fridge and wifi, my two essentials. There’s a restaurant on site, which makes it easier to pay for breakfast, but the place is literally surrounded on four sides by Tim Hortons, and I’m glad to have an excuse to get coffee and a donut there.
Only in Sharon: The Sharon Temple is an open-air museum of eight distinctive heritage buildings and dwellings. According to Wikipedia, it was constructed between 1825 and 1832 by the “Children of Peace”, a sect led by former Quaker David Willson on whose property it was built. The Sharon Temple Museum Society says the group was “instrumental in the fight for true democracy in Canada.”
Next stop: Lindsay Twin Drive-In Theatre, Lindsay ON.