It’s Day 248 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. My sojourn in Quebec continued. I drove an hour and a half east from the Templeton Drive-In Theatre in Gatineau to the Drive-in Saint-Eustache, in Saint-Eustache.
The Ciné-Parc Saint-Eustache opened in November 1971, less than two years after the province lifted its ban(!) on drive-ins. At the time, it was bilingual, with one screen showing movies in French and the other in English. In less than a year, it added a third screen, and in 1978 it added two more. The sprawling complex in this Montreal suburb is Canada’s largest drive-in and reportedly the largest outside the United States.
Like some large, flat, concrete-covered drive-ins in the US, during the day the ciné-parc also hosts a “marché aux puces,” literally a market of fleas. That market saw something I hadn’t heard of before – a fatal two-car accident in a drive-in parking lot, which happened in November 2008 according to Zone911.com. Then again, someone else spotted a UFO there a couple of years later, so maybe it’s just one of those places where normal physics don’t always apply.
The Saint-Eustache made the transfer to digital in 2012. Brigitte Mathers, president of the Mathers Group, which owns the drive-in, told L’Écho de la Rive-Nord, “Il y en a quelques-uns qui décident de ne pas investir. On parle d’environ 100 000 $ par écran.” Or as Google Translate put it, “There are a few owners who will decide not to invest. We’re talking about $100,000 per screen.”
By all reports, those investments are paying off as movie-goers are rediscovering the benefits of a drive-in in Quebec as they are elsewhere.
The Vimeo video of the day spends most of its time talking with folks waiting for the movie, but the first minute provides a nice glimpse into what this place looks like.
These days, almost all the movies they show here are in French, but dark screens are the same in any language. At this time of year, the Saint-Eustache is only open on Friday and Saturday nights.
Miles Today / Total: 93 / 28631 (rounded to the nearest mile)
Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: dark / 160
Nearby Restaurant: With all this Frenchness around, I wanted to duck in to a little bubble of America, so I had dinner at the Texas Star, which happens to be owned by the same company that owns the drive-in. A rib eye steak and salad hit the spot, and the margaritas helped me feel even more at home.
Where I Virtually Stayed: One of the closest hotels to the ciné-parc is the L’Oasis de l’Ile, an amazing little hideaway on a private island in the Rivière des Mille Îles (River of a Thousand Islands), a channel of the Ottawa River. I relaxed in the outdoor pools in the afternoon and enjoyed a continental breakfast in the morning. It was just amazing that this was a short drive away.
Only in Saint-Eustache: Just over the river in western Montreal, the Gibeau Orange Julep restaurant is a 40-foot diameter orange. Wikipedia says Hermas Gibeau built a slightly smaller orange concrete sphere in 1945 where he sold Gibeau Orange Julep, a drink similar to Orange Julius. The restaurant and its orange sphere were rebuilt larger and further back from the roadway when it was widened as the Décarie Expressway in 1966.
Next stop: Cine-parc Boucherville, Boucherville QC.