Long days, late nights and little sleep have become a daily occurence for Jay Daulat, the owner of the Twilight Drive-In in Aldergrove.
He and his family opened the Twilight Drive-In in September, 2005, two years after the Hillcrest Drive-In in Surrey was closed in 2003. Operating one of the two Drive-In theatres left in B.C., Daulat is a “firm believer in the business,” and has no regrets or reservations about his line of work
“There used to be lots of Drive-Ins in the Lower Mainland but unfortunately most were forced to close, not because of attendence but because the land became too valuable to the owners,” says Daulat with a sigh.
Finding land and long term leases is not an easy task, says Daulat, but with a little effort, anything is possible.
Having built the Twilight Drive-In from scratch, running the theatre has become more than a family affair. With the help of his wife, Camla, and two sons, Vesham (28) and Vijay (24), the Drive-In season begins mid-February and the theatre stays open until mid-November. Athough, with dreary Vancouver weather, it’s not uncommon for that timeline to shift.
May-to-September continues to be their busiest period, “primarily because that is when the summer blockbusters are released,” says Daulat.
With a passion as evident as Daulat’s, it may surprise many that the film industry was not Daulat’s first dream, though he says the work was a hobby he developed as a young child. Leaving Trindad in 1956 to study in Canada, Daulat attended the University of Manitoba and then went on to UBC where he earned a degree in Petroleum Geophysics. Quickly after graduating, Daulat decided that labouring in Alberta oil fields was not the career he envisioned.
“In 1968, I started an apprenticeship program for film,” he says. “My first placement was at the New West Drive-In and, in 1969, I started working there.”
Since then, film has been a constant focal point of Daulat’s life – a central cog in his daily routine. That is, until recently, when he made the difficult decision to switch from film prints to digital.
“It has been a slow, gradual conversion to digital,” says Daulat, who refuses to learn anything about the new technology. “There is no personal touch. I need something tangible, something to feel. Film keeps me busy.”
Since the switch, Daulat has passed the torch on to his sons, who are now responsible for ensuring the films run smoothly. The projection room now sits untouched, a sad thought Daulat says. With the new digital technology, hands on work is not required and the system operates by remote control.
With new movies featured every Friday, the Drive-In proves to be the perfect combination of old traditions mixed with the latest entertainment to intrigued an audience of all ages. Upcoming movies include The Bourne Legacy, Ted and Ice Age 4.
More than just a business venture, the Twilight Drive-In has become a home to Daulat and he says he is “happy the way [everything] is going.”
However, his ambition may not be limited to his current plot of land.
“If I ever found another piece of land, I would built another [Drive-In],” he says.
Black Press reporter
The Bourne Legacy is playing at Twilight Drive-In from Friday, Aug. 10-Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012…