Wednesday, August 21, 2013

You can help save drive-in movies

Bloomberg reports that drive-in movie theaters, which once were a central part of suburban life in the U.S., have passed the point of being endangered species and are headed toward extinction. At their peak, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters operating in the U.S.; today, there's only about 360. The remainder have been converted into swap meets, bulldozed to make room for strip malls and subdevelopments, or simply leveled and left to turn back into grassland.

210 of the remaining 360 drive-ins are threatened with closure if they can't replace their film projectors with digital models. Motion picture distributors have just about stopped sending their movies to theaters in the form of film reels; instead they typically send reusable hard drives loaded with encrypted versions of movies. Digital projectors cost $50,000 to $100,000, depending on their throw (how far they can project a viewable image) and resolution.

Honda has stepped up to help with a promotion called "Project Drive-In," which will give five digital projectors to drive-in theaters chosen by voters on the website. The site also has links to a separate Indiegogo campaign to raise money to help drive-ins with digital conversion. This video explains the problem and Honda's program:

It's not just drive-ins that are in danger; art and nonprofit theaters are also threatened. If there's a drive-in, art or nonprofit theater in your city or town, it's worth it to call or stop by and see if they need help with funding their digital conversion. Even ten or twenty dollars could be a big help.
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