The future of the Brownsville Drive-In theater has brightened as the 65-year-old icon has received $14,000 in funding towards the cost of a new digital projector from a nationwide contest.
Charlie Perkins, drive-in manager, said Brownsville was the only drive-in in the state to be awarded money remaining from Honda’s Project Drive-In, which used online voting to award money to the five theaters that received the most votes.
Perkins added that Brownsville Drive-In was officially notified on Wednesday from Honda, while vAuto, an Auto Trader Group company, donated $5,000.
“It will be close to $100,000 for the projector and remodeling the booth for climate control,” said Perkins.
The drive-in also received $8,050 in donations, so far, from the website GoFundMe.
According to Perkins, the drive-in plans to take out a loan to cover the remaining cost of the projector.
With the recent changes in technology, drive-in theaters soon will no longer be able to get 35mm film prints from movie studios, which are forcing them to either go digital or close.
Attached with the switch is a $75,000 price tag, which is why Honda stepped up to the plate.
Brownsville Drive-In will open for the season this Friday.
Perkins said the first screen will show digital movies once the projector arrives and is set up later in the month.
Honda kicked off the contest in the fall, promising to donate projectors to the five drive-in theaters that received the most votes. The contest was later extended to four more theaters.
Visitors were then encouraged to share “Project Drive-In” information with family and friends through social media, email or texts, then also pledged to see one movie at their local drive-in and contribute to the national “Save the Drive-in” fund.
As the 10th vote-getter nationwide, Brownsville qualified for a portion of the remaining money from the fund.
To date, Perkins said Brownsville has roughly $30,000, including money raised from spaghetti dinners, along with GoFundMe. People use the website to raise money for things like medical expenses, education costs, volunteer programs, youth sports, funerals, memorials, animals and pets.
Laura Novillo, a former resident who now resides in Greene County, gave $5,000 through the website.
Novillo said that the drive-in was a special part of her life growing up, having watched movies every weekend at the outdoor venue with her parents.
“It was always like home away from home,” said Novillo, who recalled her father was a fan of science fiction movies. “I didn’t want to see it close.”
Novillo said she took her nieces, Chloe, 11, Bayeza, 9, and nephew Ryan, 16, to the drive-in last year. “I like for them to see what I did with my family.”
Perkins said the drive-in is also in the process of remodeling the snack bar, bathrooms and the marquis.
“There’s still a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” said Perkins.
Also participating in the Honda contest were the Evergreen Drive-In in Mount Pleasant, Comet Drive-In in Connellsville and SkyView Drive-In in Carmichaels.
Despite not winning, Evergreen has converted to digital and opened last week with six movies on its three screens.
About half the nation’s roughly 350 drive-ins have converted to digital projectors, said John Vincent, president of the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association.
More than 90 percent of indoor theater can show digital films.
Most moviegoers see little difference between the two formats, but Vincent said digital has allowed studios to save money and offer wide-release of 3D movies.
Vincent added that the change has been positive for drive-ins; the picture shown on the screen is “twice as bright” and the “consistency is much, much better.”