The Brookfield Drive-in

Tobin’s Road

If you’ve ever dreamt of snuggling in your parents’ station wagon in a wooded thicket amidst rows of other steamed-up cars, gazing at the big screen through your windshield and listening to the movie soundtrack on your stereo, well, not so long ago, you could here in town. The Brookfield Drive-In was one of several drive-in movie theatres in the province, and was the last to close in the early 1990s.

Owned by US-based businessman Chuck Baldwin, the screen was set up in 1973 and managed by Bud Fowler. The drive-in was located on Tobin’s Road, tucked away amidst farms and the Old Mill nightclub. In the years before home VCRs and video rental stores became commonplace, the theatre had been known to attract as many as 600 vehicles a night. The cost ranged from $1.75 to $3.50 a person in the 1970s to $7 per car by 1986. Over nearly twenty years, Brookfield Drive-In showed a gamut of films, including Gone with the Wind, Porky’s, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and many a Charles Bronson flick. By the late 1980s they were regularly showing blockbuster movies like Top Gun and Thelma & Louise—often as double features. Potential moviegoers would search The Evening Telegram for that familiar logo amidst either the movie or “Nite Life” listings of the day, and—if you were lucky—on a summer’s eve, a film or two would be showing.

This being Newfoundland, showings were at times cancelled due to fickle weather. Refunds or ‘fog passes’ would be issued if the weather rolled in mid-movie. Ultimately it was also bad weather that got the better of the Brookfield Drive-In: the screen was destroyed during a windstorm in October 1992. A front-page photo in The Evening Telegram noted that “parts of the screen were blown into the field behind the drive-in, coming close to landing on Pitts Memorial Drive.” Despite Baldwin’s plans to reopen the following year, ‘92 was, unfortunately, the last summer for drive-in movies. The boarded-up snack bar and projection booth, along with several lonely speaker poles, stood sentry in the field until the building was destroyed by fire in 2003.

—Erin McKee
Suggestion for a nook? nooks@thescope.ca