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Curtain falls for the Westville Drive-in Theatre

Jesse and Angela Samson pose with their son William at the Westville Drive-in Theatre. Samson said she hoped her son would get to grow up going to the drive-in theatre, much like she did.

WESTVILLE – After the credits rolled for the last film at the Westville Drive-in Theatre, it was the end of entertainment that harkens to a bygone era.

While some accepted Empire Company Limited’s decision to get out of the movie business and repurpose the Westville Drive-in location, others tried to save it.

Angela Samson was one of them, and formed the Save Westville Empire Drive-In Facebook page. Despite gaining almost 5,000 members, it wasn’t enough to affect the fate of the theatre, which showed its last movie yesterday evening.

Samson said her connection to the theatre started long before she ever saw a movie there.

“My father started going as a little boy,” said Samson. “My parents went there for their weekly date night so years later after they were married and I was born they started taking me.”

She considers herself lucky to have been born during the drive-in season. She saw her first movie at the drive-in theatre when she was only a few weeks old.

“Every Victoria Day weekend after that we were there for opening night. We went there all the time after that for the rest of the summer.”

Samson recalled opening nights at the drive-in, saying cars would be lined up and down the street. Back then the first 100 cars got a prize so many would try to get there early.

“Although they've stopped giving out prizes opening night, my husband and I are always there way earlier then the gates open and the first car in line,” she said. “It’s hard to break old habits.”  

When Samson looks at a list of movies, she sometimes thinks to herself that she saw them at the drive-in with this friend, or this cousin.

“I saw so many movies and each one has its own memory attached to it. When I saw Jurassic Park it was something that stood out,” she said. “You have to picture the drive-in, all dark and forested, I kept expecting a dinosaur to pop its head over the trees.”

Samson said she saw many classic films over the years, including many iconic Disney movies.

“Whenever a movie came out around or during summer time the first thing we would do is wait and see if it was going to come to the drive-in,” she said. “I have so many memories of the drive-in from going with my parents, going with friends and cousins, to almost 10 years ago getting to take my husband Jesse for the first time.”

Samson said that of all the memories she has of the theatre, this summer may have been the best.

“This summer, we got to take our eight-month-old son William. It was so much fun to watch my son sitting on our laps on the swings, to watch all the people and the amazing staff at the drive-in, and then snuggle in our car in our PJ's and blankets and watch his face light up in amazement as the big screen lit up,” she said. “He loved it and I loved that I got to share with him a place I have loved my whole life too.”

Because the drive-in has been such a big part of her life and summer routine, Samson said it will be tough to get used to the new reality.

“Monday night is going to be hard being there knowing how much uncertainty and doubt surround if the drive-in will ever open again, but I'm going to try not to think about it,” she said. “We’ll take our regular spot in the drive-in, and curl up in our PJ's, get lots of delicious snacks at the canteen and enjoy an experience like no other in the county: curling up and watching a drive-in movie with my family.”

Organizations: Empire Company, Save Westville Empire Drive

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Recent comments

  • Chris
    September 03, 2013 - 20:52

    To Frank who wishes Sobeys would build another store in this're nuts. The advertising for the Drive-in was always terrible. Too bad since it was cheaper to go there, then at the other theatre. The selection of movies was usually bad as well. Sobeys is all about profit margins now. Besides, with all the land Sobeys owns in this County, the will soon buy out all the towns and call it Empire Ltd!!!

    • Angela
      September 04, 2013 - 06:29

      Chris your right I always found there was never much advertising for the Drive-In either. Any of my friends that didn't live directly in Pictou County had never heard of it. Also this season was packed a couple months before.they announced they were selling the Drive-In. They had a new guy sending them the movies this year and he was just better at choosing them. When you have the right movie combination the Drive-In is usually packed every night, there is definietly a profit that can be made if someone deicded to buy it as a Drive-In

  • Allan
    September 03, 2013 - 09:51

    Bob, At one time it may have been Pictou Co. $$ that kept Empire ( Sobeys) in business. But those days are gone. Empire ( Sobeys) survives quite well due to it's advancement into the Ontario and Western Canada markets. They are a business. And a business'goal is to reap profits. I'm sure the Sobey families, and Empire as a whole, are quite philanthropic in Pictou County. And more.

  • Allan
    September 03, 2013 - 09:50

    Bob, At one time it may have been Pictou Co. $$ that kept Empire ( Sobeys) in business. But those days are gone. Empire ( Sobeys) survives quite well due to it's advancement into the Ontario and Western Canada markets. They are a business. And a business'goal is to reap profits. I'm sure the Sobey families, and Empire as a whole, are quite philanthropic in Pictou County. And more.

  • frank moris
    September 03, 2013 - 08:59

    oh come on why would sobeys keep a business open when a few people came to view a is time for a change if you opened a business and it was not making any money would u keep it open because people had memories in it I should say not so get over it .wish sobeys would build another store out there

  • Bob in N.S.
    September 03, 2013 - 08:54

    Colin and lee I admit that you are correct., After all we can not have a large uncaring complex as the Empire Company do their part to persevere an important part of regional history without filling their own pockets. Just remember as I have already stated if it were not for our money spent on their overpriced products the Empire company would not exist.

    • Lee
      September 03, 2013 - 09:47

      Head to the Aberdeen Hospital and note who has paid for most of that place. There's something important that the company has funded over the years, but I bet that's not good enough for you either Bob.

    • Tizzle
      September 04, 2013 - 09:47

      My question to you Bob is, where do you think the county would be without Empire? In an even more stellar financial position perhaps?

  • Colin
    September 03, 2013 - 07:49

    To Justin and Bob....So every time Empire has a business decision to make regarding a property that has history in the area, do you want them to "have compassion" and say heck with business? Or just the ones you personally care about?

  • Lee
    September 03, 2013 - 07:16

    I cannot believe the comments people make surrounding the closure of the drive-in. It's never, oh thank you for keeping this place open even when it's been losing money hand over fist for years. It's always give us more more more. Sad. I'm glad we had the drive-in for as long as we did, many memories were made that cannot be sold. The times are changing, the cost of digital movies is high and if a business cannot sustain itself in it's current format it most certainly will not be able to upgrade and pull in profits. It's reality.

    • Caroline
      September 03, 2013 - 11:00

      Lee the Drive-In made its highest profit in 15 years this summer, it can make a profit easily with the right movies and advertising. It was great of Sobeys though to be willing to sell it as a Drive-In and try to keep it going as one despite the fact they could sell to anyone,

    • Lee
      September 03, 2013 - 13:59

      From what I understand, the Save the Drive In group tried to find another buyer. Did you see the people beating down the door to purchase the place as a drive in? Neither did I. Movies have all gone digital, do you think a new buyer would want to invest well over 30k right away to be able to play the movies? The Zedex theatre in Greenwood is going through the same problem right now and lo' & behold, there are no purchasers beating a path to their door either. How long do you think it would take for a buyer to make that money back? The only reason this summer saw the biggest profit (according to you) is due to the fact that it's on the chopping block. Too little, too late.

  • justin
    September 03, 2013 - 06:29

    Shame on you sobeys for letting the drive-in a piece of pictou county die...and for forgetting what you once stood for which is your hometown pride.

  • Bob in N.S.
    September 02, 2013 - 22:49

    Sure it costs a lot to run such an enterprise but don't you think a tiny bit of compassion could have been demonstrated here to the public who by the way are the reason there is an empire company in the first place,because if it weren"t for your and my money they wouldn't exist.