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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Landmark drive-in screen comes down

Vehicles park at the former Lucky Star Drive-In on Highway 10, giving passengers a good view of the screen. The popular theatre closed in 2003 and Star Wash and Service had the screen taken down to make room for business expansion.

FILE PHOTO Enlarge Image

Vehicles park at the former Lucky Star Drive-In on Highway 10, giving passengers a good view of the screen. The popular theatre closed in 2003 and Star Wash and Service had the screen taken down to make room for business expansion.

For teenagers, it was a place to escape from parents for an evening, a spot to bring a date. It was a meeting place, a party spot, and a fair number of Brandonites were likely conceived there.

A vehicle visits the ticket booth at the theatre.

Enlarge Image

A vehicle visits the ticket booth at the theatre. (FILE PHOTO)

The screen at the former Lucky Star Drive-In lies on the ground on Sunday after being taken down.

Enlarge Image

The screen at the former Lucky Star Drive-In lies on the ground on Sunday after being taken down. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)

Of course, at the Lucky Star Drive-In, you could catch a movie, but it didn’t really matter what movie was playing.

"I guess it mattered to a point what you were running ... but you were going to go to the drive-in anyway, no matter what was showing," said Terry Fairhall, who managed Lucky Star until 2001, just a couple of years before its final act in 2003.

Since it closed, the blank screen stood high on Highway 10, a beacon of memories for passersby. It also conjured up a lingering hope that maybe, just maybe, one day a movie would once again shine bright and warm on the corrugated metal.

"Realistically, I knew in the back of my head the days were numbered, but as long as the screen was there, it made you think: ‘Well, maybe,’" Fairhall said.

On the practical side, it was a huge, obvious and well-known landmark for nearly everyone in the area.

Earlier this month, however, a truck washing company, the appropriately named Lucky Star Wash and Service, had it taken down to make way for expansion. Even for the service station, it was an easy marker to tell clients to look out for.

"I hate to see it gone," Fairhall said.

The chances of a vinyl-record-like resurgence of the North American drive-in is slim — a familiar story told countless times of a bygone era fallen victim to changing technology.

"It would have been nice," Fairhall said, but the current industry reality of leaving film on the cutting room floor in favour of a digital format has sunk in for many theatres and drive-ins.

"If the drive-in was still operating, and if there was still film, I think it would still be alright," Fairhall hypothesized.

The film industry is still releasing some movies in the old 35-millimetre analog format for a few new movies and hearsay and rumblings within the film world suggest Hollywood has discovered cutting out film may have been a mistake.

"The plan was two years ago to get rid of film. But they’re still making film," Fairhall said. "$80,000 to upgrade the projector isn’t much, but it’s a lot for an independent theatre owner."

Not all of Manitoba’s drive-ins have gone black, however.

The Stardust Drive-in located in Morden will have showings this season, as will Killarney’s Shamrock Drive-In and Flin Flon’s Big Island Drive-In.

Fairhall, who began his career as a projectionist at the age of 13, is also part of efforts to outfit Brandon’s Evans Theatre with a digital projector, about a $60,000 endeavour.

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @grjbruce

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 28, 2014

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Terry trained me as a 35mm projectionist and I worked at the Lucky Star for a number of years...It was a part of my life I thoroughly enjoyed and will remember forever...Thanks Terry.

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