The Midland Drive In opened in 1953. There was a single screen to show movies on.
The early management was James Wilson in 1953 and Allan W. Perkins (1955-1956). In 1956 the theatre was acquired by Odeon. Sometimes women were offered free admission on Mondays & Tuesdays if they were the driver.
In 1982, brothers Dave and Paul Babcock purchased the Midland Drive In. They were already owners of Penetanguishene’s Pen Theatre. After the brothers passed away, ownership went to their wives Teresa and Heather. Dave’s children Mark and Stacey also assisted with operations.
At some point the wired speakers that patrons would attach to their car windows, were replaced with an FM transmitter (90.1 FM) to allow people to listen via their car radios.
Stacey met her future husband, Gordon Cox while he was working at the theatre.
Paul Babcock passed away in 2005 and Dave passed away the following year. It was at this time that Stacey and her brother Mark took over operations of the drive in.
It wasn’t easy to compete with digitally available movies. In 2008, Gordon Cox said in a media interview, “We struggle with satellite competition where people can push a button and get a movie. There still are people who enjoy it but they’re a dying breed. How long it’s going to hang on I don’t know. It will dwindle out; drive-ins are so small and they’re all independents.”
In 2008, the average attendance at this time was 75 cars. Admission was $8 per person, children 12 and under were free. Tuesday and Thursday were carload nights which allowed as many people as there are seatbelts in the vehicle for just $8.
In March of 2020 owners Stacey Babcock-Cox and Gord Cox announced that they would not be reopening the theatre due to the aging building and that they were unable to obtain new movies until weeks after their initial release.
In the summer of 2020 the drive in hosted the Drive In Drag Show Canada, a performance by drag queens and a drive in rock show was held along with a classic car show.
Sadly, Stacey passed away in 2022.
Before the movies began, children would often play ball in front of the large screen while dog owners walked the grounds. There were weekly regulars and people even came wearing their pajamas. The drive in was also popular with seasonal cottagers. The reviews for this location are mostly 5 stars with a few mentions that mosquitos were an issue and to bring netting. The concession stand was cash only.
While there was no playground equipment on site, people brought Frisbees, footballs, baseballs and mitts, bubbles and sparklers for between shows.
There is a potential buyer for this property so perhaps the nights will once more be filled with the flicker of the big screen. Please treat this property with respect!