Do you remember those summer evenings curled up in the back of your vehicle with the family, popcorn in hand, watching classic movies beamed onto the giant screen in front of you? Well it’s back, right here in Rural Oxford!
After being closed since 2015, the Oxford Drive-In, located on Highway 2, is back in business thanks to Woodstock couple Angila Peters and Adam Shaw.
Peters and Shaw took on the project of reopening the Drive-In after spotting a post about the Drive-In on a Facebook page called You Know You Grew Up in Woodstock When.
“Everybody was talking about their great memories of the Drive-In and I had a bunch of memories of my own. Everybody talked about how much they’d like to see that up and running again and it gave me a flashback to an attempt I made to purchase the Capital Theatre and the Oxford Drive-In a long time ago,” said Shaw.
The Oxford Drive-In originally opened in 1950 and was a staple attraction for the Oxford community for decades until it closed in 2015 due to loss in popularity and the mandate for all drive-ins to make the switch to expensive digital projectors.
After being given the opportunity to lease the property, Peters and Shaw began restoring the Drive-In, but its age showed. The projector that had come with the property needed to be replaced and the buildings had been stripped of all their wiring. Not to mention a section of wall in the projection booth that had fallen over.
“The challenges have been a lot, but honestly we keep conquering all of them,” said Peters.
Despite these challenges, Shaw was determined to have the Drive-In open by July 1.
“We were telling him ‘It’s not going to happen Adam’, but he had all but tattooed it on his forearm. He was insistent that it would be open July 1 even if he had to get a DVD player and a TV,’” said Peters.
“I’m most proud of the faith that so many people have shown. We had cement delivered to pour a floor and the guy delivering the cement said, ‘You guys aren’t going to be open for July 1,’ and our contractor said, ‘Oh yes we will! You watch us,’” recalled Shaw. “There was a moment when the electrician had a small issue and he said, ‘I am not going to be the reason this doesn’t work.’”
Thanks to the amazing support from the Rural Oxford community, the Oxford Drive-In successfully opened on Canada Day weekend!
“The support of sponsorship, the support of the community… Zorra Township has been really supportive to us… At every step they were looking for ways to help us make it go. Everybody was pulling for it, right from the sponsors to the trades people,” said Shaw.
Peters remembers “running around like a crazy person” on opening night, and then being overcome with emotion when the car horns honked in support as they announced the official opening of the Drive-In.
“I am glad I didn’t see Adam at that time because I lost it. He did it! He actually got this thing open for July 1,” said Peters.
Since opening, Peters and Shaw have received an overwhelming response from the community.
“When we first posted about it on Facebook and it got 7,000 likes in three days, we were excited and terrified at the same time,” said Shaw.
“A lot of people message me which is interesting because a lot of people that grew up here have the same memories of being out there or working out there,” said Peters.
“The memories are so strong for people that the Drive-In belongs to everybody. Everybody’s got a connection to the place and now they get to share that connection with their kids,” said Shaw.
Never been to a drive-in movie before? Peters and Shaw describe the experience as something unique from anything other.
“It’s kind of vintage; it’s a gigantic screen, and you have the privacy of your own car,” said Peters. “If you want, you can go in your pajamas – you can’t really go to the movie theater in your pajamas.”
“Part of enjoying a movie is the shared experience. There’s something added to it by a group experience and the drive-in gives you that unique feature of a group experience,” said Shaw.
“There has to be something because people are coming to see old movies that they can get anywhere, but they want to see it at a drive-in,” said Peters.
The Drive-In is an especially great option right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Peters and Shaw have been working closely with South West Public Heath to implement socially distanced parking spaces and offer food delivery right to your vehicle. As of July 17th, people are now even able to sit outside their vehicles in the warm summer air.
There’s more to come from the Oxford Drive-In. Already, Peters and Shaw have plans to add more attractions like trivia nights, outdoor concerts, car shows, and batting cages.
“A drive-in can’t just be a drive-in anymore,” said Shaw. “The whole idea is that the more we can involve the community and the more we can give to the experience, the more support people can give us.”