The film industry is getting away from print film altogether and is in the process of switching over to all digital movies. Many family owned and small drive-ins, face a hefty expense in converting to digital. Estimates for various drive-ins have been anywhere between the $30,000 - $200,000 range. Those estimate costs have come down with the help of special programs being offered, but still out of reach for some.
The Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theatre, close to where I live, has already announced see article in 2013, that they will probably have to close as a result.
Profits for drive-ins are not from ticket sales, most all that money goes towards paying to show the movie itself. The concession stand or snack bar is where the money is made. It would take a lot of hotdog, popcorn and drink sales to make up for the conversion costs.
One thing digital media might have to offer, is the possibility of special events. Imagine, tailgate parties at the drive-in! Watching the football game, or car racing on that huge screen. It sounds great, but keep in mind, drive-ins can only project at night, so just who can show an event live would largely be determined by demographics, where the event is and at what time.
Other pluses are sharper images and sound quality.
What damage this will do to the drive-in business overall is yet to be seen, but I'm sure it will have it's casualties. Let's just hope the number is small.
The only thing we can do at the moment is support our drive-ins and let them know how you feel about wishing they remain open and if they choose to go dark, thank them for the good times they gave. Many aren't in it solely for the money, but because they enjoy what they do.
There is a silver lining though, besides those that have converted, some drive-ins are accepting donations or selling merchandise to help with the conversion to digital. An excellent example is the Galva Autovue Drive-In Theatre in Galva, Illinois. They were able to make the conversion through the generosity of the community. You can read the complete article in the Chicago Tribune.
I'm in the process of creating a page of links to drive-ins that are asking for help. It's down to the wire. Not all are solely for conversion, some need help with renovations and upkeep. Please help them in making the conversion or help pay for those who have, so they can continue bringing you movies & memories under the stars.
Thank you, The Management