May 14, 2021
The organizer behind a drive-in movie theatre says he wants clarity on COVID-19 restrictions after he was told he’d have to shut down the operation less than two hours before a movie was set to start.
David Howard, president of The Event Group, said the Grey Eagle Drive-In was preparing to show a 7 p.m. screening of Dirty Dancing on Thursday evening when they got word they had to close down the event.
The drive-in, located near the Grey Eagle Casino on the Tsuut’ina First Nation, had held five screenings the previous week.
“We reached out to both AHS (Alberta Health Services) and Indigenous Health,” said Howard. “Both noted drive-in movies were safe to proceed. Last weekend, we hosted shows on Friday and Saturday night without any incident.”
He said the venue had also planned some drive-in concert events for this month, but AHS put a stop to those when new restrictions were announced in early May.
“We had to pivot very quickly and get movies in place, so we did that,” said Howard.
He said on Thursday organizers heard rumours that AHS might have changed its mind on drive-in movies. Howard tried reaching out to AHS throughout the day, without getting any clear answers.
At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, he received an email from the health branch of Indigenous Services Canada stating Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw had confirmed with that department all drive-in events including movies were prohibited in regions with high case numbers, such as Calgary.
“We weren’t even advised directly,” said Howard. “It was a notice that went to the Tsuut’ina Nation.”
He said organizers had to scramble to email all ticket holders and get them a refund. And the same will have to be done for future events which were planned throughout the month of May.
“We’re at a loss,” said Howard, “For one, no messaging was put out there. No information was put on their website. No direct communication to us was held.”
He said what really irks him is that places of worship are being encouraged to hold drive-in services as a safe alternative to indoor worship services.
The latest restrictions around worship services allow for 15 people indoors, but the province’s website recommends drive-in worship services where people remain in their cars as a safe alternative.