Drive-in theaters represent classic Americana, a part of our roadside, automobile-loving culture that is still tangible on the landscape. The first drive-in opened in Camden, NJ in 1933. At the height of the drive-ins in the 1960s, there were thousands; whereas today there are only 368 drive-ins operating. Drive-ins declined with the creation of air-conditioned movie theaters, the increase in land values, and a sinking reputation that followed. Now the greatest threat to drive-ins is the necessity to convert to digital projection, which all must do by 2014 – a cost of about $80,000. Without this conversion, these remaining drive-ins will not be able to reopen for the 2014 season.
Project Drive-in is a partnership between Honda and all drive-ins across the country. Honda will donate five digital projectors to the drive-ins that earn the most votes. Aside from votes, you can also pledge money to the drive-in project, which will help to fund the drive-ins. Watch the Project Drive-in video to learn more. It’s about three minutes long, with great stories and images of drive-ins at the end. Definitely worth a watch!
How can we help Project Drive-in? There are four things that this project recommends:
(2) Donate what you can.
(3) Spread the Word via twitter, facebook, blogs, emails, word of mouth, anything!
(4) Pledge to visit a drive-in this summer. Not sure where there is one? Check out the map to find one closest to you.
Have you been to a drive-in theater? Where? Is it still operating? A few that I’ve come across in my travels include the 66 Drive-in Theater, Carthage, MO; the Moonlite Drive-in, Abingdon, VA; Badin Road Drive-in, Albemarle, NC; Sunset Drive-in, Colchester, VT; St. Albans Drive-in, St. Albans, VT; and the former Rocky Point Drive-in, Rocky Point, NY.
I hope you’ll make the pledge in one form or another. Drive-ins have a special place in my heart. While a historic preservation undergrad at the University of Mary Washington, I wrote a research paper on drive-in theaters and nostalgia in American society. That was a fun semester for this American girl.
And lastly, what do you think about Honda sponsoring this project? Most of us aren’t fans of big corporations, but it is nice to see one helping out. It makes perfect sense that a car company would partner to save drive-ins. After all, it’s hard to go to a drive-in theater without a vehicle! However, here’s some drive-in trivia for you: there were also fly-ins and drive-ins for boats. Often towns and schools and community groups have big screen nights out on a green space, but there’s something unique about a vehicle drive-in. To see them disappear from the American landscape would be an absolute shame.
See these related posts from Preservation Nation.