Owners of the historical Twilite Drive-In hope to have the Wolseley theatre designated as a Municipal Heritage Property.
The RM of Wolseley has moved ahead in support of the designation. The motion to pass a bylaw designating the property will be read in council March 25.
“It’s an important part of our community,” said Rose Zimmer, administrator for the RM of Wolseley. “It’s an important part of our history.”
Zimmer said the RM is working toward designating the property as it remains as one of few drive-in theatres in the province, and continues to be operated by the original owners, in its original location.
“It’s important to keep it going,” said owner Don Zaba. “It’s a landmark here and it was the first one in Saskatchewan.”
The Twilite Drive-In Theatre was the first to open in Saskatchewan and is one of only three drive-ins remaining in the province.
Don’s father, Stanley Zaba, opened the operation 59 years ago, airing its first film, Take Me to Town, on June, 24, 1954.
“People don’t want to see us close,” said Don.
Transitional changes in technology are forcing drive-in theatres across the province to close, unless they make the costly conversion to the new digital projection format.
The switch to the new digital projection format will cost between $35,000 and $85,000 for the Wolseley Drive-In, said Don.
The changeover must happen this year as film distributors will cease the distribution of 35 millimetre film prints as early as next month.
“We have to do it this spring,” Don said of the conversion. “We have no funding at all yet, but I think we’re going to have a fundraiser sometime in April.”
Don said the expense is a great undertaking to a family-owned and operated company. While the Municipal Heritage Property designation may make Twilite Drive-In Theatre eligible for government grants, funding will not be available for the new digital projection format.
“It’s out of the question,” he said.
“(Government) will not provide us with any grants for the new projection equipment. If we do get a heritage grant, it will be used to upgrade the concession or the screen or the grounds, but not for new equipment.”
The new digital projector will replace the two original Century projectors that have been in operation since the theatre opened.
The digital projection won’t change the experience for movie-goers greatly, said Don, but the new system will enhance the sound and picture quality by about 25 per cent.
“It will be much better,” he said.