An American icon is vanishing — we can help save it

It is pretty well known at this point that drive-ins are facing a rough time with the digital mandate that is being imposed by Hollywood. Very soon, film companies will no longer distribute 35 mm film and therefore will put drive-ins like Pike Drive In, Montgomery, in a tight spot, since digital equipment is “about the price of an Escalade,” Pike’s owner Joe McDade said in an earlier article.

“Imagine buying three of them (one for each screen) and since we are a family owned business, not a large corporation, and only open for six months a year, you have to look all options,” he said.

To help out these drive-ins nationwide facing the same hardships as Pike, Honda developed a contest called Project Drive-In.

The website, projectdrivein.com, exclaims, “An American icon is vanishing. We can help save it.”

“We received an email back in June from RPA, the marketing company that is running the projectdrivein.com contest for Honda. We signed up the next day,” McDade said.

The contest is a voting process. Each day, from Aug. 9 through Sept. 9, users can access the website and vote once a day until the contest is over.

Other drive-ins in the area also have entered, including Point Drive-In, Danville, and Laurel Drive-In, outside of Hazelton.

“My understanding is that less than 100 drive-in theaters nationwide are participating. The top five vote-getting drive-in theaters will each win one digital projector,” McDade said.

Someone over at Honda must really care about drive-ins.

In addition to the contest itself, they also are taking donations towards saving drive-ins; currently they have raised more than $30,000 for the cause.

Drive-ins have become a sort of rarity, their peak being the 1950s and 60s, accounting for 25 percent of the nation’s movie screens at that time, according to the L.A. Times. But now, they’re down to 1.5 percent.

But still, the few places these drive-ins still operate, like Pike, are still bustling on a Saturday night. At the height of summer, the line to get a ticket to a double feature at Pike on a Saturday is long, but the customers are patient to get the unique drive-in experience.

Pike has three projectors that will need converting, at least one of those, McDade hopes, will be provided by this Honda contest.

“I am being told that we will need at least one digital projector to run all the summer movies in 2014. I think some of the bigger movies may be available on 35mm film next year, but right now nothing is definite,” he said.

Nearing the end of their summer season, Pike will soon close its doors for the colder months, and re-open again in April.

In addition to asking their Facebook fans almost daily to vote in the Project Drive-In contest, they also have been soliciting for donations online at www.gofundme.com/35fr5w.

If they can obtain at least one digital projector, McDade guarantees they will be open for the 2014 season.

Losing a drive-in is a classic case of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”

“If you talk to folks who have had drive in theatres in their area and lost them to closure, a lot of them say they did not realize what they had until it was gone,” McDade said.

“Let’s face it, every time you see a movie at a drive in theatre, you’re watching history. If a community loses that, they have lost a piece of themselves,” he said.

To help Pike in the Honda contest, voting is simple, but ends soon – on Monday.

Visit projectdrivein.com/vote_6 and “Vote 6” for Pike. Also, voters may text vote to 444999. Voters may text vote once a day from any cellphone and can also vote once a day from each of their devices – a desktop, laptop, tablet, etc., that they have access to.

Also, those interested in helping may donate directly to Pike by visiting the aforementioned funding website for Pike, www.gofundme.com/35fr5w.