Want to open an outdoor theatre?

There are a number of processes and laws to follow if you are thinking of opening a drive-in or open-air theatre, including the requirement for a valid licence and getting approval to show movies that are rated higher than PG. This information is intended to help you understand all the steps, decisions and costs.

Learn more about the motion picture rating system in BC.
Understand the definition of a motion picture.
Find out about the fees.
Read the Motion Picture Act.
Read the Motion Picture Act Regulations.

Getting a licence

By law, any person or business that shows a motion picture to the public must first be licensed with us as a theatre. This includes outdoor theatres such as drive-ins and open-air theatres.

These are the steps to follow to get a theatre licence:

  • Showing proof of your business registration or incorporation
  • Providing a municipal business licence
  • Completing the licence application and paying the $177 fee, per screen (that’s the rate for 2020). For an outdoor theatre, select the “general release only” theatre licence type on the application form
  • Understanding your obligations

Get details on all the steps, read an application checklist and apply for a licence.

If you already have a general release theatre licence and also want to open an outdoor theatre:

You have a couple of options – pick the one that is best for you.

Know your obligations

Once you are a licensed theatre, you must be aware of your obligations under BC law.

Read about your obligations.

As an outdoor theatre:
As an outdoor theatre, you have some additional obligations. If you are planning to only show General (G) or Parental Guidance (PG) films, you don’t need to do anything else. But if you intend to show 14A or 18A films, or if there is a possibility you will show 14A or 18A films at some point, you must get approval from us when you apply for your licence.

This is because in BC, the law outlines certain viewership restrictions for 14A and 18A films:

  • For films rated 14A, viewers under 14 years old must be accompanied by an adult
  • For films rated 18A, viewers under 18 years old must be accompanied by an adult

This requirement is easily met for indoor theatres where entrances and exits can be monitored and people not admitted to the screening can’t see or hear the film. But for many outdoor theatres, this is more difficult. To address this, there’s a condition on the licence saying only G or PG films can be shown unless the theatre proves it can meet the requirements in the following section.

Getting approval to play 14A and 18A films:

To get approval to exhibit 14A and 18A films, you must show that your theatre is set up to satisfy the viewership requirements under the law.

To request approval, submit your answers to the following questions along with your licence application:

  1. Admission and access: how will your theatre ensure that people who haven’t been admitted to the screening (the unintended viewers) cannot access it? An ID check alone isn’t enough if public access to the theatre cannot be effectively restricted.
  2. Visibility of the film to unintended viewers or non-attendees: how will the theatre ensure that people outside of the theatre are unable to view the film?
  3. Audibility of the film to unintended views or non-attendees: how will the theatre ensure that people outside of the theatre cannot hear the event?

Include supporting documents like pictures as proof that you are meeting the requirements. For example, if you detail a 15-foot high fence that prevents non-attendees from accessing the site, send us a picture of the fence.

Approval requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, and there is no guarantee your request will be approved. Requests generally take about a week to process.

Where to submit your application

Please submit your licence application and all associated documents to the contact information on the application. You can submit your information via email, mail or fax.