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It’s a romantic relic of the 20th century, a fading tradition with a unique set of idiosyncrasies and pleasures that has helped make memories for millions of Canadians.

Whether you were the pajamaed kid falling asleep in the back of the car, the teenager taking the rare chance to be alone with someone special or the adult looking for an affordable night out for the whole family, the drive-in theatre was an escape — one that was just as exciting, if not more so, than going to an indoor cinema.

Drive-ins are not as prevalent as they once were, but they’ve moved with the times, albeit out of necessity. Today, theatres such as the 5 Drive-In, in Oakville, Ont., which first opened in 1959, have invested in digital projectors, which can cost as much as $100,000 each, and have Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art sound.

But even with modern trappings, the simple pleasures of drive-ins still exist. “You have your personal space,” says Brian Allen, vice-president of Premier Theatres, the company that operates the 5 Drive-In. “But you also have this big, beautiful screen and you’re under the stars. It really is kind of magical.”

The Amazing Spider-Man plays to a sellout crowd at the 5 Drive-In, in Oakville, Ont. (Photo: Tom Petrov)">
Film fans often arrive early to take in the sunset. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

A long line-up of cars forms as box office staff handle questions from — and issue instructions to — moviegoers. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

A father and son check out the options outside the drive-in's 1950s-style diner. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

A man picks up his pre-movie snacks. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

Hot dogs are a classic treat at the drive-in theatre. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

A young couple visits the drive-in for the first time, using the back of a pickup truck for their seats. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

Two sisters entertain themselves hours before the real entertainment starts. (Photo: Tom Petrov)

Janice and Gourd Slater, regulars at the 5 Drive-In for 17 years, are comfortably set up in a prime spot for a double feature. (Photo: Tom Petrov)