Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Palace Gardens falls short in contest

by on September 23, 2013 11:00 AM

The Palace Gardens Drive-In theater is going to have to make it on its own.

The 63-year-old drive-in along Indian Springs Road, White Township, was not among the additional four winners of digital projectors in a national contest sponsored by the American Honda Motor Company.

The final four winners, announced this morning on the Project Drive-In contest website, were the Stateline Drive-In, Elizabethton, Tenn.; the Starlite Drive-In, Cadet, Mo.; the Monetta Drive-In, Monetta, S.C.; and the Ocala Drive-In, Ocala, Fla.

Those four drive-ins joined five other winners in Maine, Michigan, Texas, Illinois and Oregon announced earlier this month.

Honda sponsored the contest and donated nine digital projectors to help some drive-ins stay in business when the movie industry stops releasing new movies on 35 mm film and switches to an all-digital distribution format. That change could come by the end of this year.

The digital projectors cost about $80,000 each, more than many drive-in theater owners can afford given that many are only open during the summer, and often only on weekends.

Fans were encouraged to vote online for their favorite drive-in, and the top vote-getters won the digital projectors. More than 2 million votes were cast in the first round of voting that ended Sept. 9. During the extended voting period the number of votes climbed to nearly 2.5 million by Friday and another 133,000 votes were tallied before the deadline Saturday. The final vote total was 2,630,160.

It was not disclosed how many votes each drive-in received.

The website, too, has raised more than $43,000 in contributions for drive-ins.

Delaney Honda, in Indiana, and The Indiana Gazette partnered to raise awareness of the financial challenge drive-in owners are facing and to boost support for Palace Gardens, owned by Clarine Beatty and her husband, Mike Hudzick.

Beatty has said she and Hudzick won’t make a decision on whether there will be a 2014 season at Palace Gardens until sometime this winter.

In addition to the $80,000 price tag on a new digital projector, Palace Gardens also needs about $20,000 in upgrades to the theater’s electrical system and projection room.

“We’ll evaluate everything over the winter” before deciding if Palace Gardens can open with one of the expensive digital projectors next spring, Beatty said. “We really thank the Gazette and Delaney Honda” and the many people who over the past few weeks told the drive-in’s owners and employees, “We’re voting for you!”

According to the Project Drive-In website, there are 368 drive-in theaters still in business in America.

There are 28 drive-in theaters still operating in Pennsylvania, according to Drive-ins.com, a resource website for drive-in information.



Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is rwells@indianagazette.net.
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