It was June, 2020: The world was stuck at home, there was nothing to do, nowhere to go… And we were all tired of it. Those of us at AVentPro were no different. We wanted to find a way to get out, and help Winnipeg do the same. What could we offer our city that allowed them to find a sense of normalcy, while also remaining physically distant from those around them? A pop up drive-in theatre was the perfect solution. It was a chance for families to get out of the house and have fun as a family! AVentPro had the technology to put something like this together, and the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (a long time client of AVentPro) was eager to let us use their venue.
"We've been lacking (community) for the last few months when we have been in lockdown and various stages of quarantine. We wanted to be able to offer the community an opportunity to get together while still maintaining social distancing," - Garry Hale
There were so many positive responses from people who came to the drive-in, everyone was thrilled to get out of the house and do something in a way that was safe for them and their family. It was an affordable outing and it really did meet a need for the city. It was also a good opportunity for our sponsors and provided visibility during this time when everyone is struggling to maintain their normal business operations.
In terms of the success for AVentPro, it was a great chance for us to get our gear out there and put it to work, rather than sit in our warehouse. It created visibility for us in the community and was a chance for us to give back in the midst of everything collapsing around us. On the practical side, it gave AVentPro a chance to field test new products and expand the scope of what we can offer to new and existing clients. AVentPro is now the market leader in this concept here in Manitoba. We are the company that knows how to pull this off - we’ve experienced first hand the involvement and planning that an event like this requires, and our crew and equipment is at the top of our game. Although the world has changed drastically, we are still able to find “new” and innovative ways to engage and connect with the community and audiences, while showcasing our assets and bringing the name AVentPro to the masses.
What we did
A lot of planning needed to be done in order to showcase a drive-in theatre that was also compliant with Manitoba Health and their strict COVID-19 regulations. AVentPro was tasked with building a framework for social distancing guidelines. This included designing a parking lot that separated each stall 2 metres apart, providing masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to staff and setting up and maintaining washroom facilities and hand washing stations for guests. Patrons of the drive-in were also under strict rules about how they could open windows, sit outside their vehicles but not in truck beds.
Once the COVID-19 compliances were met, we had to consult with an engineer to design and test the structure (made out of shipping containers) to mount our 9x5 metre LED wall and have it able to withstand winds of up to 120km/h. The next thing to do was set up a ticketing website - Manitoba Health was wanting all interactions to be contactless, therefore we could not sell tickets on site. Dealing with the movie studios to choose our movies was a whole different ball game. We were in contact with the distributing agencies, who acted as the middlemen between us and the movie studios. There were quite a few restrictions in place from the studios, since we were only a pop up drive-in, and not a permanent facility. Because of this, certain movies were unavailable to us. Movies that had sequels in the works were also not allowed, as well as typical “drive-in movies”. In all, we were pleased with the movies that we selected, and so were the patrons of the theatre!
When it was time for the drive-in to open to the public, we were able to partner with Kristi Cumming of The Cumming Event, who organized the Winnipeg Rifles football team as parking attendants, and some young staff to scan tickets and deliver concessions. AVentPro was fortunate to have an employee who also runs a food truck business, Dexter’s Mini Donuts! We set up contactless ordering and delivery of concessions with Dexter’s, which allowed patrons to have popcorn, soda, mini donuts and hot dogs during the movie. All the customer had to do was order online, and one of the staff would drive out in a golf cart to the assigned parking stall and deliver their food! The drive-in theatre quickly became a well-oiled machine. Everyone knew their role, and the patrons were more than happy to follow all of our guidelines. Pretty soon, we were showing more than movies! The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra were also eager to get back out into the community to showcase their talent, but were unsure how to do that with the social distancing rules. Our drive-in was the perfect place for them, and those who attended were thrilled to see them in action once more. We helped accommodate the St. Mary’s Academy Convocation, which was an amazing thing to do for the grads of 2020, who would otherwise not be able to celebrate their graduation. On Canada Day, we held a concert series featuring live performances by Sierra Noble and Quinton Blair.