Who Turned Out the Lights?

Growing up in the early 1980s and 90s, my only memory of a drive-in movie theatre consisted of driving past a derelict swath of weed-infested land with towering wooden screens, long since abandoned. The dead neon sign read “Sunnyside,” but there was nothing sunny about it anymore.

Having never come across a drive-in open for business, I had thought that they were relics of the past—something to wax nostalgic about for the older generations who lived through its heyday in the 1950s and 60s.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that SLO has its very own drive-in and that it is a thriving hub for families and couples. I’ve been there quite a few times myself over the years; I’ve even brought my dog along (she, like my Dad at movies, promptly fell asleep and began snoring). It’s great fun and cheap too—you get two movies for less than the price of one at a regular theatre, you can bring in your own food and drink, and your pets are welcome with no charge. Drive-ins, where have you been all my life?!

Unfortunately, this classic piece of car culture is about to fade to black.

By the end of 2013, Hollywood is expected to stop distribution of 35mm film to all U.S. theaters. To keep their doors open, drive-ins must make the switch to digital. The cost of the updated equipment and installation runs in excess of $70,000 per screen. That’s a financial burden very few theatres can take on in this economy. Though some have turned to Kickstarter to crowdsource their funds successfully, many are facing closure within the next few months.

That’s why automaker Honda has stepped up to bat with their Project Drive-In campaign. It’s part giveaway, part crowdsourcing fund that encompasses a voting contest, an Indiegogo fund for donations, and a plethora of ways to get the word out across all social media outlets. The microsite has that retro feel while using modern techniques, much like the drive-ins its trying to save. With only a few more hours left on the clock to vote, its down to the wire on which 5 theatres are going to escape fading to black.

Central coast denizens need not worry though—both the drive-in theatres in SLO and Santa Maria will be transitioning to digital by the end of the year.

Enjoy the Show,