Curtain falls for the Westville Drive-in Theatre
© ADAM MACINNIS - THE NEWS
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.”