This article was originally published in the 2019 Summer issue of Invest In Style Magazine.

 

In the geographical centre of Prince Edward County, away from the wineries and boutique hotels, the Mustang Drive-In stands as a tribute to cinema’s past, and to one couple’s whimsical vision. The 63-year-old drive-in first opened in 1956 (as the Picton Drive-In, but renamed later that year) with one projection screen. Today, two screens now tower above the surrounding farmland, an open invitation to passersby to pull in and enjoy a cinematic adventure reminiscent of the post-WWII film industry.

 

 

When Paul and Nancy Peterson spotted the for-sale sign on the derelict drive-in, in 1988, they decided to buy it and make it a profitable business. Without any experience in the world of film or technology, the couple saw the cool factor and decided this passion project was worth changing their life for. But they recognized that their lack of cinema and business experience would make things difficult in a quickly evolving media landscape. Independent theatres were being phased out at the time, and the few that survived were hailed as unusual success stories. Paul and Nancy rallied their family to help resurrect the drive-in and build an experience worthy of attracting moviegoers from Prince Edward County and beyond.

 

The couple soon realized that carloads of enthusiastic teenagers brought with them problems with drugs and alcohol so they instituted a no-tolerance policy which ushered in a more family-friendly environment (although waves of disgruntled youth initially steered clear). Today, children can play in the new playground installed directly in front of the silver screen – easy for mom and dad to keep their eye on the movie and the kids.

 

Paul and Nancy remained open to change and have adapted with the times. In 2015 the drive-in went digital, but the experience is still the same for moviegoers. Every weekend, the cars and trucks drive in and wait for Paul’s welcome. As soon as he stands in front of the screen the honking starts, a ritual that dates back to problems in the original days when customers honked in complaint because of imperfect FM transmitter audio. Now a Mustang ritual, the enthusiastic honking is the perfect nod to the past and preamble to the evening’s big-screen entertainment.

 

 

The Mustang Drive-In has adapted to the twenty-first century while retaining the flavour and novelty of the 1950s drive-in experience. You can buy buttered popcorn and hotdogs at the concession, and catch the latest blockbusters on screen. The Mustang Drive-In remains a proud member of Prince Edward County, promising a vintage experience with all the modern trimmings.

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