SACO - Honda North America is getting ready to launch a contest called “Project Drive-In,” which would result in the top five vote-getting drive-in movie theaters across the country receiving a new digital projector.
The Saco Drive-In is one of those being highlighted in a promotional video being prepared for the contest website, said Jessica Fini, an assistant manager of public relations for the car company.
Fini said Honda North America realized that many of the country’s drive-ins are facing closure unless they can make the conversion from a film projector to a digital one, since almost every movie company in the country is now using a digital format.
“The goal of Honda’s ‘Project Drive-In’ is to raise community awareness across the country and give people easy ways to get involved so that this historic part of American cinema and car culture can live on,” Fini said this week.
According to her research, there are about 350 drive-ins still operating in the United States.
Fini said the Saco Drive-In was chosen to be featured in the promotional video for “Project Drive-In” because it’s “a great example of the type of drive-in theater and community we are trying to help and (it’s also) a good representation of the problem many drive-ins face across the country.”
She said drive-ins are special because almost “everybody has a good memory of a drive-in experience – piling into a car, devouring lots of sugary and salty goodness and getting away with talking as much as you want during the film. The drive-in is truly a part of American culture and the fact that many will have to close at the end of the year has prompted Honda to launch ‘Project Drive-In.’”
While the move to a digital format will help drive-in theaters remain viable and have a vibrant future, Fini said, the cost for conversion is prohibitive, roughly $70,000 to $85,000 for the upgrade, which is why Honda North America has stepped in to assist drive-in theater owners and operators.
Ry Russell, who operates the Saco Drive-In – the second oldest drive-in in the nation – said Honda’s Project Drive-In “is a great opportunity and it would be a big win for us if we can make this happen.”
A camera crew from Los Angeles was on site last week to film Russell and a rally of Saco Drive-In supporters, which will be used in the promotional video for the digital projector contest.
Russell feels there’s a strong chance the Saco Drive-In could be one of the top vote-getting theaters, especially since it has such a strong online following, with more than 20,000 “likes” on its Facebook page, which he said is triple that of any other drive-in in New England.
“Project Drive-In” launches on Aug. 9 and every day for the 30 days of the contest supporters can go online to vote for the Saco Drive-In.
“I just want to keep this community strong and make sure we don’t close our doors,” Russell said. “But engagement (from our fans) will be really critical.”
However, in case the Saco Drive-In is not able to win a digital projector from Honda North America, Russell said he’s continuing his fundraising efforts, which included a yard sale this past Saturday.