You've heard that Hollywood is doing away with 35mm film prints, and as a cinema purist you're probably upset about that on principle, but are you aware of what substantial damage it's doing to small-time movie theaters? All this year independent art houses and nonprofit community-based cinemas and drive-in theaters have been trying to raise funds for their sudden forced conversion to digital projection -- or they're having to throw in the towel and call it quits.
It's a shame for all those struggling to find the means, but the changeover expenses seem particularly daunting to the drive-ins, because while their death has been greatly exaggerated over the past 25 years, those few hundred that keep the concept from going extinct are still just scraping by to keep this outdoor-cinema tradition going. And unlike a lot of the indoor indie and nonprofit operations, most drive-ins have a large number of screens, therefore a large number of projectors in need of replacing.
To the rescue as much as it can afford to be is the auto manufacturer Honda. As we learn today from Variety, the company's American division has begun a movement called "Project Drive-In" to save these iconic cultural institutions. And you can help. If you have a favorite local drive-in, just vote for it to win a digital projector here. Honda has only five systems to give away, though, so hopefully one each to only a handful of businesses will be of some significance. Additionaly, Honda hopes to save more theaters with your help via an Indiegogo crowd-funding effort. Watch Honda's ad about the project here:
Meanwhile, there may be a chance that your local drive-in is already trying to get your help through its own crowd-funding campaign. For instance, right now Orlando's Weirs Drive-in is seeking pledges. Some have already been funded. Many more were unsuccessful in their attempts. And it's not just the moviegoers and Honda doing their part. Sony is currently offering 0% financing for theaters (not just drive-ins) as well as a rebate for those that do raise their money via Kickstarter. Of course, that's if you go with Sony 4K equipment.
Sony also appears to be involved with the Honda effort, as the projection-system candidates will reportedly be host to a special free screening of the studio's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 next month. Presumably Honda's donations would also be in the form of Sony equipment, but I'm hearing that's not necessarily the case.
Drive-ins were a beloved attraction for me as a kid, and I just recently rediscovered the experience for two reasons. I moved to a city that has one, and I had a baby, and bringing him to the drive-in is less an issue for other patrons as it is at a regular movie theater. It's not my favorite way to watch movies, and so far I've pointedly only seen films there I've already seen before, but it is a custom and format I wouldn't want to go away completely. I don't see my local spot on Honda's list, so hopefully it's already set with digital.
Should the drive-in movie theater be saved?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
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