It's no secret that Drive-in theaters have been on the endangered species list of business establishments over the last few years. There were once thousands of drive-in movie theaters around the United States, and now there are less than four-hundred, and there may be even fewer once studios stop distributing 35mm film prints. Theaters that are unable to convert to digital projection will be forced to shut down. But all hope is not lost as a movement has started called "Project Drive-In," which aims to save as many drive-in theaters as possible by supplying them with new projectors.
Via Variety, Project Drive-In is sponsored by Honda and is looking to preserve the iconic part of American car culture that is the drive-in theater. Watch the video below to learn a bit more about how drive-in theaters are being affected by digital conversion and what you can do to help your local drive-in theater - assuming you have one - get a new projector:
The Project Drive-in website says the upgrade to digital projection can cost upwards of $80,000, which might be somewhat affordable for a chain theater but is surely a hefty price to pay for a privately owned establishment. I went to the drive-in theater for the first time last summer. I think it only cost something like $7 (for an adult ticket) to see three movies. Assuming that's about the average going rate for a drive-in ticket, $80,000 really does seem like a fortune for one theater to pay.
Putting aside the make and models of the cars parked in front of the giant screen, and obviously the movies playing, my own personal experience at the drive-in last summer felt like something out of a different time period. Kids ran around, playing and enjoying the summer weather, while their parents and others sat in their cars or on lawn chairs outside and enjoyed the movie. The cost of admission was a steal and the price for snacks was beyond reasonable, especially by comparison to what the theaters are charging these days.
If it's a film that works best with surround sound and total focus, I'd go to my local cineplex, as the ambiance of the drive-in can be a bit distracting from a viewing perspective, but for a relaxing movie-focused evening during the summer weather, the drive-in is a great option and one I think every movie-lover should try at least once. So, in my experience, the drive-in theater really has made time stand still in some respects. But of course, technology has not stood still, and it looks like that's putting these businesses in jeopardy. Hopefully Honda's efforts prove fruitful for at least a few of these theaters, if not more.
Variety notes that voting is underway, with the project set to wrap up on September 9, after which the five winning theaters will each host a special screening of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which is due out September 27. Honda's also going to try to raise awareness for Project Drive-In by hosting a "Pop-Up Drive-In Tour," which will offer free screenings of Cloudy 2 and complimentary refreshments at select Honda dealerships around the country. While there may be a shortage of Drive-Ins these days, there's less of a shortage of Honda dealerships, so this may be an opportunity for people to experience a Drive-In screening if they haven't had the opportunity to do it.
Visit ProjectDriveIn.com for more info.