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Time, technology, development spell end to drive-in

05/18/2013 10:53 EDT | Updated 07/18/2013 05:12 EDT
It will be the end of an era this weekend. The first 24th of May weekend in nearly 60 years without the North York Drive-in.

Cliff and Nancy Murrell opened the drive-in north of Toronto, in Sharon, Ont., back in 1955. And as Cliff says, "58 years is a long time."

But times change.

"Sunday nights would jammed full," remembers Cliff. "We'd have to hire the police [for traffic control]."

But this weekend there's no popcorn in the concession stand and no movie reel in the projection booth.

Time and technology have seen to that.

"We've been holding back five or six years but digital ...and our ages too," said Cliff.

Nancy started working in the ticket booth when she was 15 said "a lot of people are so sad, which is too bad, because they came with their parents now they're bringing their kids."

Drive-in's used to be packed in the 50s and 60s.

It was a relatively cheap night out for the family, with the kids sleeping in the car.

It was also the place for teens to make out, or break up.

But Norm Wilner, film reviewer for Now Magazine, says "the idea of a communal movie was dying in the 80s."

"In a city, anyway, the idea of a communal drive-in is harder and harder to put together. You'd have better luck having an open-air screening where people can just walk in."

But along with new digital technology, or reaching retirement age, there's another factor in the closing of the North York Drive-In.

As urban sprawl continues to gobble up rural land, the Murrel's open-air theatre has become more valuable. They've sold 20 acres to developers.

So this weekend, the Murrell family will fade the Hollywood blockbusters to black.

"There [were] many summers when we were not able to take our kids anywhere for holidays, so now I'm going to concentrate on some grandchildren," said Nancy.

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