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Historic Sites of Manitoba: Circus Drive-In Theatre / Delta Drive-In Theatre (Saskatchewan Avenue West, Portage la Prairie)

Known as the Circus Drive-In Theatre when it opened in Fall 1952 about one mile west of Portage la Prairie on Highway #1, the theatre’s parking lot had room for 480 cars. In that opening year, it hosted movies on seven days of the week, rain or shine, not just on weekends. To encourage attendance on Wednesday night, traditionally a slow one, the theatre had a “foto-nite” where random moviegoers whose names were drawn would “sell” their photograph to the theatre in return for such prizes as cash, jewelry, appliances, and gift certificates for local merchants. (The promotion bypassed strict gambling laws.) The Circus was renamed the Delta Drive-In sometime after 1962.

The Delta Drive-In closed in 1992 when its last owner, 84-year-old John Ferguson, who had been a movie projectionist since 1925, retired. The city has expanded so today the former drive-in site in within its boundaries. All that is left is the theatre’s projection screen. The parking lot is now occupied by buildings of a family farming operation.

Former projection screen of the Delta Drive-In

Former projection screen of the Delta Drive-In (July 2017)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Former projection screen of the Delta Drive-In

Former projection screen of the Delta Drive-In (July 2017)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Former projection screen of the Delta Drive-In

Former projection screen of the Delta Drive-In (July 2017)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Site Location (lat/long): N49.97568, W98.35021
denoted by symbol on the map above

Sources:

Advertisement, Portage la Prairie Leader, 4 September 1952, page 8.

Obituary [John Ferguson], Winnipeg Free Press, 9 November 1998, page 29.

“Fade to black,” Winnipeg Free Press, 16 June 2012, page 151.

Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck, Great Plains Publications, 2012.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 27 September 2017

Historic Sites of Manitoba

This is a collection of historic sites in Manitoba compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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Please note that inclusion in this collection does not mean that a particular site has special status or protection. Some sites are on private property and permission must be secured from the owner prior to visiting.

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