Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Abandonment Issues: Mustang Drive-In Theatre



My first visit to the Mustang Drive-In Theatre in Cavan, Ontario, was as a young teenager in the early 1990s. I couldn't tell you the name of a single movie that played on that or any subsequent visit, as I was always much more focused on the particular female in my company.

Girls, drugs and crime. Sounds like a movie tag-line, but those were my only interests during that dangerous downward spiral period of my life between the ages of twelve and sixteen. My memories are hazy, but some good times were definitely had here.

In late August of 2011, when Ninj and I pulled up in front of the Drive-In, I was a very different person with a very different tag-line.


The massive screen loomed over an overgrown field, the driveway was roped off and a few of the letters in the sign reading PLANET OF THE APES had fallen over. It was enough to deem it worthy of a closer look. The exterior images in this post were taken during that visit. Upon arriving home afterwards however, a quick internet search revealed that despite the unkempt appearance, the Drive-In was indeed still open and operating and showing Planet of the Apes.





That was that, we figured, and never looked back. I dumped the pictures into a folder named Mustang and dumped that folder into the folder where our pictures go to die: The probably never gonna look at these again folder.

Two years later, in August of 2013, I ran into an old friend. She just so happened to have recently discovered this little obsession of mine for herself, this hobby known as urban exploration. As we explored the Millbrook Correctional Centre together, she told me that the Mustang Drive-In Theatre was abandoned. She said that there was still popcorn in the machines and film in the projection room. I made a mental note, but it took a few weeks to pencil a visit into my busy summer schedule of camping, cottaging and exploring.


The Mustang Drive-In Theatre was fully operational throughout the summer of 2012, but according to their website, they are "Now hiring for the 2011 season." The phone number provided is no longer assigned and no one has responded to my email. The website also boasts the following...

"With the largest screen in Ontario and stereo sound, the Mustang Drive-In features a fully stocked snack bar and a friendly staff. We are sure you, your family and friends will enjoy a splendid night at the  Mustang Drive-In Theatre"

The claim is not quite accurate though, as the 55ft x 110ft screen is one of the largest in Ontario, but not quite the largest.

The earliest that I have been able to date back the history of the Mustang Drive-In Theatre is 1978, at which time it was purchased by Premier Operators. It is unclear if this was the purchase of the undeveloped land or the established Drive-In itself.

In 1993, Gerry Parente became the owner and operator. With his mother Santina manning the drive-through box office out front, Gerry supervised his six seasonal employees and ran the projection booth five nights a week.

In an interview with the Peterborough Examiner in August of 2007, Jerry shared his love for the Drive-In. "This is a family-run business, not a corporation, and I have a passion for it. Where else can you see stars under the stars?"

He also commented on the kids playing under the screen before the movie started: "That just makes my night. Look, these parents don't have to pay a babysitter. And bring your dog, don't leave him at home. This is family time. Where can you get this dollar value?"

With a capacity of 500 people, there would be evenings with only four vehicles present. But Gerry took it in stride: "It's OK, I bite the bullet and start the projector, and I'm here for four hours. I do it because it's a passion for me."

It was rumoured that Gerry spent $6000-$8,000 in 2006 to refinish the massive screen.

Gerry walked away from the Mustang after the closing of the 2012 season.


On September 1, 2013, Ninja and I pulled up once again to the Mustang Drive-In Theatre. The sign was gone. The fence was beginning to fall over and potholes were overtaking portions of the driveway. We had already shot the exterior over two years prior to this visit, so we immediately made our way inside. We were very pleased to discover that there was indeed still popcorn in the machines and overjoyed and fascinated with all of the contents remaining in the projection room upstairs.




Hot Golden Topping

Fresh Pope

Not exactly fresh popped as advertised

Fresh Poped Popcorn

Ninja IX getting all buttered up

Mop and fuck it!




























From here we headed south and less than two kilometres later found ourselves exploring another location with which I had a personal connection: The Springville Church.


***February 2nd, 2016***

A return trip to the old Mustang Drive-In proved fruitless this evening, as everything has been torn down and only an empty field remains.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES


Anonymous said...

I was here a week ago ;)

There's an abandoned factory on Bloor St in Sudbury that's worth a look. And if you make it in time, the old Sudbury Hospital has some lovely views of Ramsey Lake. The Morgue there is a spectacle as well.

E. Rogers said...

Not to be confused with the Mustang out side of Guelph. Which seems to be doing OK.

WordsToGoBuy said...

Although I will agree that the photos are well taken and certainly capture the ominous look of today's Mustang Drive Inn, I think they are more shocking than stunning. My father, the late Alan Ford, would be turning over in his grave to see the current state of the Drive Inn he was the manager of for almost 20 years. Our family moved in and lived above the snack bar back in 1968 when the Drive Inn first opened. My dad was very proud to be selected as the manager of the biggest drive inn in Canada at the time. My mother, brother, sister and I all worked there for many seasons. I believe we have some pictures of the Drive Inn when it was first opened and how it looked back then. Unfortunately, I don't have them in my possession to share right now. It was an adventure I was pleased to be a part of and my family and I will remember the way it was in it's glory. Thank you for your piece on this story as it has brought to light an era that is all but extinct. ..Amanda

Rob.i.am said...

I love drive-ins so this saddens me. I'm glad you were able to capture these before she was torn down.

Anonymous said...

I lived just down the road from that drive-in. I was so sorry to drive by many years later and see that it had been torn down, so sad. I'm sure Mr. Ford would be upset to see it in that condition as it was always well run and maintained while he was there. I have many fond memories of times spent there.