Entrepreneur working to bring a drive-in theatre to Grand Forks | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Entrepreneur working to bring a drive-in theatre to Grand Forks

An example of the inflatable screen Grand Forks entrepreneur Chuck Varabioff hopes to install on a property in Grand Forks as part of a drive-in this summer.
Image Credit: Facebook / Chuck Varabioff
May 27, 2020 - 7:30 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic is making some old things new again, as a Grand Forks entrepreneur hopes to open a drive-in theatre in the community.

Chuck Varabioff is usually pretty busy this time of year putting the finishing touches on the Canada Rock Fest, which was scheduled this summer in Grand Forks until the pandemic put an end to such gatherings.

He’s since turned his attention to the prospect of creating the Canada Rock Fest Drive-in Theatre on a 15-acre parcel of fenced, irrigated land he owns in Grand Forks.

“It was used for camping during the music festival. I have a temporary use permit to do community events and camping on the property, so I began thinking, why not turn it into a temporary or semi-permanent drive-in theatre?” he says.

Varabioff has sourced all the equipment he needs, including a 40-foot inflatable screen, an FM transmitter to provide audio, porta-potties and wash stations.

He’s hoping to be able to sell pre-packaged food and drinks in a plan that will be compliant with social distancing rules.

“I just got approval from Sony Pictures and Universal Studios to show their movies, and I’m waiting on approval from some other studios,” he says.

He’s decided to charge $25 per car, per movie, with plans to run two first-run movies per evening. Prepaid vehicles staying for both movies would cost $40.

“I want to keep my prices low. I’m still working with the studios to figure things out,” he says.

Current provincial restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic limit the number of vehicles to 50 at a time on the site.

Varabioff hopes to open by the end of June or around Canada Day.

He ran into a roadblock with Grand Forks city council May 25, however, when they told Varabioff he would need to re-apply for a new temporary use permit.

As of this morning, he said discussions are continuing and he feels confident the city will work with him to allow the theatre.

"It should be a lot of fun. Drive-ins are geared more toward families, and from comments on Facebook, everyone wants this to happen so they can take their kids to experience what they did back in the 1980s,” Varabioff says.

He plans to use his Canada Rock Fest website in a dual-purpose role for ticket sales for the drive-in.

After several decades of declining popularity, drive-ins are seeing a recent resurgence in popularity as the pandemic creates a need to put space between theatre-goers.

The Okanagan's only drive-in theatre in Enderby quickly sold out of tickets for its first week earlier this month.

Presently, only three drive-in theatres remain in British Columbia, the Starlight Drive-in in Enderby, the Twilight Drive-in in Langley and the Park Drive-in theatre in Prince George.

Grand Forks is roughly an hour-and-a-half drive from Osoyoos.


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