Drive-In theatres could once be seen along the highways all across the country. Only a few of them remain today, some of them being bought by nostalgic movie buffs who want to save a part of cinematic history. Unfortunately, many of them may be facing closure at the end of the year.
In the 1960s, there were more than 4,000 active operating drive-ins across the country. Today’s estimates indicate there are only about 360 drive-ins left nationwide. However, technological changes may mean the end for the few drive-ins that are left. The time has come to covert to digital projectors, which according to reports, is an expensive fix. Most indicate that it costs more than $200,000 to make the digital conversion at a theater, with each new digital projector costing $100,000.
The conversion has been imminent for some time. It costs Hollywood studios more than $1,000 to create one 35mm copy of a film compared to the $100 price tag for a digital version of the same film on an encrypted hard drive.
Of the 360 drive-ins nationwide, the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association explains only 150 of them have made the conversion thus far. The remaining 210 only have until the end of the year to make the switch, meaning they have to either get with the program or close their operations.
While some people may think 210 movie theaters are insignificant, but drive-ins are not the only operations struggling with the expensive conversions. Art houses and indie film theaters are facing the same challenges. Movie trailers are no longer being made available in 35mm, so it shows the operations that the conversion window is quickly approaching.
Those who have already made the conversion have indicated the new picture is magnificent; however, the hefty price tag makes it hard for small businesses to stay in operation. Most drive-ins are only open set evenings each week to ensure they have a profitable crowd, and then on those nights they can only have two showings. Because of limited space, drive-ins can only accommodate a specific number of cars each time.
In addition, drive-ins in many locations can only be open during the warmer seasons because the colder weather and snow can be a major hindrance to the customers and the operations. Nostalgic movie goers should catch a flick at the nearest drive-in for old time sake while they are still going, because odds are, according to many entertainment experts, not all of the drive-ins will be able to make the transition over to digital.
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