Sept. 3: Skylight Drive-In, Pembroke ON

Drive-in screen showing a movie at night with lightning in the background

Photo from the Skylight Drive-In Facebook page

It’s Day 246 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey, and my 21st and last in Ontario. I’ll be going across the Ottawa River on Day 247. Meanwhile, it took almost two hours to drive from the Port Elmsley Drive-In Theatre, about halfway between Smiths Falls and Perth, to the Skylight Drive-In just outside Pembroke.

The Skylight’s news page and other sources say that the drive-in opened in 1954. Based on my old Motion Picture Almanacs, it may have been called the Pembroke from the time it opened until at least the mid-1960s. After that, the books indicate that both the Pembroke and a second, smaller drive-in, the Skylight, served the city through the mid-1970s, when my books stopped keeping track of Canadian drive-ins.

In a story last year in the Pembroke Daily Observer, it said the place “was built in the heyday of drive-in theatres in 1954, the land was severed off farmland owned by the McLaughlin family.” The most recent McLaughlin to own the Skylight was Matt McLaughlin, who ran it for a few years before selling it to husband and wife Kevin Marshall and Kathy Lepine in June 2014. “He actually sold it to me over the phone,” Marshall recalled. “It was refitted and remodelled and opened July 1, 2014, all on a verbal agreement.”

The current owners quickly installed a digital projector and spruced up the place a little. At the time they bought it, they said they were considering adding a second screen, and they mentioned the possibility again to the Daily Observer, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Marshall also told the Daily Observer about his dinner menu, which includes burgers, hot dogs, and the usual suspects. “(Patrons) can make it a picnic with great food from our concession booth,” he said. “We are very proud of our poutine! The right combination of thick cut fries, fresh curd and delicious gravy, then relax and enjoy the movie in the comfort of your car on your sound system, with digital clarity in sound and picture.”

In a fun coincidence, I visited the Skylight during its Labour Day Eve Dusk to Dawn event. There were four movies: Cars 3, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Valerian, and the original Halloween from 1978. I only count the first movie. It was my 11th viewing of Cars 3, but the first in over two months. I thought I might have forgotten bits of dialogue, but it all came back to me.

Miles Today / Total: 108 / 28429 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Cars 3 / 160

Nearby Restaurant: Once again I asked myself: Does it count as a “regional” restaurant chain if that region is all of Canada? Again, I answered yes, this time for Boston Pizza. They say this chain is pretty much the same no matter where you find it, and my experience in Pembroke shows why it’s so popular. The menu is surprisingly varied, but with pizza in the name, I didn’t want to order anything else. I had the Boston Royal with shrimp. Let’s see Pizza Hut match that!

Where I Virtually Stayed: As is often the case, the Comfort Inn here is an excellent compromise between the absolute best and the least expensive. Inside there’s a fireplace, which is already starting to feel good this far north, and in the back yard, there’s a mini-golf course. My room had the full set of modern amenities. The hot breakfast was a better example of what Comfort can do, with eggs and meat. Me and my wallet were happy we stayed here.

Only in Pembroke: I find the grinning blueberry mascot at Hugli’s Blueberry Ranch to look a little creepy, but there’s no denying the fun and taste of picking your own blueberries. The hay maze was nice too, especially when followed by ice cream and coffee.

Next stop: Templeton Drive-In Theatre, Gatineau QC.