The voting by drive-in movie fans to help their favorite drive-in theater win a free digital projector is now over.
But Indiana-area movie buffs may not know for a few more days if their efforts to help the Palace Gardens Drive-In stay in business were successful.
A website (www.project drivein.com) sponsored by the American Honda Motor Co. indicated this morning that the winners of five digital movie projectors will be announced one each day, Wednesday through Sunday. The winners will be the five drive-in theaters that received the most votes from fans.
The digital projectors, valued at about $80,000 each, will help a few drive-ins remain in business when the movie industry soon stops releasing new movies on 35 mm film prints and switches to an all-digital distribution format. The technology upgrade may be too much of an expense for some drive-in theaters that are only open during the summer.
Honda sponsored the website and contest in recognition of drive-in theaters’ long role in American car culture.
The website showed 2,028,369 votes were cast. Those votes apparently were split among the roughly 350 drive-ins still operating around the nation. There were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in America during their peak in popularity in the late 1950s, according to the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association.
Clarine Beatty, owner of the Palace Gardens Drive-In in White Township, said last month the change to digital technology at her theater would likely cost about $100,000 because of a need to also upgrade the theater’s electrical system and renovate the projection room. She said she and her husband, Mike Hudzick, will evaluate the hefty investment over the fall and early winter before deciding if there will be a 2014 season at Palace Gardens.
Palace Gardens opened in 1950 and still uses the theater’s first carbon arc reel projectors and much of the theater’s other original furnishings.