It’s Day 250 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. This was a very short drive to go just a bit farther east from Montreal. It took barely 20 minutes for me to go from the Cine-parc Boucherville, in Boucherville of course, to the Cine-Parc Mont St-Hilaire, in Mont-Saint-Hilaire QC of course.
The Ciné-Parc Mont St-Hilaire opened in July 1972, added a second screen in 1981, and has stayed in operation every year since. Those two screens are adjacent to each other at an approximate right angle. I can’t think of another double-screen drive-in I’ve seen with that configuration.
The drive-in has survived at least two fires. On the night of August 21 2010, thieves tied up an employee, stole the night’s proceeds and torched “the drive-in building” according to CTV News. No one was ever charged with that crime. One year later to the day, fire broke out on a Sunday afternoon in the main building and burned through the roof, as reported by Zone911.com.
After recovering from those fires, the Mont St-Hilaire worked through a more common issue, converting to digital projection. TVA Nouvelles interviewed then-co-owner Clément Longpré in 2012 about the upcoming off-season transition. “Les gens viennent nous voir et nous demandent si on va fermer à cause du numérique … On est là pour rester,” Longpré said. Google Translate says that means, “People come to see us and ask us if we are going to close because of digital … We are here to stay.”
In July 2017, Kevin Patenaude became co-owner of the Mont St-Hilaire. He told Les Versants that digital projection has led to an increase in customers. “C’est la même technologie qu’au cinéma, ce qui nous permet de commencer nos films plus tôt, avant la noirceur totale,” Patenaude said, which I hope translates to, “It is the same technology as the cinema, which allows us to start our films earlier, before the total darkness.”
Patenaude’s new acquisition was also featured in L’OEil Régional. “(J)e savais que le ciné-parc allait être vendu, j’ai sauté sur l’occasion. J’avais le goût de posséder mon entreprise dans le milieu du divertissement. Je me suis rendu compte que c’était ma passion,” he said. Again, I believe that’s at least close to, “I knew the movie theater was going to be sold, I jumped at the opportunity. I had the taste of owning my business in the entertainment business. I realized it was my passion.”
I’m so glad to have another YouTube drone video to embed here. It’s the longest one I’ve seen so far, and it shows just how remote this drive-in really is.
The Ciné-Parc Mont St-Hilaire is still open for a few more Fridays and Saturdays this season, but Thursdays are right out. I hope to find a few more weeknight programs in the weeks to come.
Miles Today / Total: 14 / 28677 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 160
Nearby Restaurant: For some gourmet burgers and beer in a fun setting that’s easy on the budget, my choice was Shack Attakk. My Hors-piste (off-road) burger had mushrooms, some maple-y bacon, and duck, I think. Add a “chic-choc” chocolate milkshake and some fries, and I had a perfectly tasty meal. I’ll eat healthy next time, honest.
Where I Virtually Stayed: The Motel Le Transit is the closest hotel to the drive-in and seems to be the only hotel that is actually in Mont-Saint-Hilaire. My room had a fridge and free wifi. There was coffee in the lobby and a bar with video poker machines. For breakfast, there’s an adjacent McDonalds, and the price of the room left plenty of cash to get whatever I wanted. This motel is well-suited for a quick stop on the Trans-Canada Highway, and that was just what I needed.
Only in Mont-Saint-Hilaire: La Maison Amerindienne recognizes the Native American way of life in Quebec. On cultural Thursdays, it hosts guided tours through its exhibition featuring “son du tambour, un chant de bienvenue et une cérémonie de purification,” which is what I would call the sound of the drum, a welcome song and a cleansing ceremony.
Next stop: Cine-Parc Orford, Sherbrooke QC.