When voting for Project Drive-In ended, those closest to the Mahoning Drive-In were disappointed to learn that they had not won a digital movie projector.
Fortunately for the drive-in, they have one last chance to win a projector through Project Drive-In and remain open. While they didn't win one of five projectors given away by Honda Motor Co., the sponsor of the project, Honda has announced that they will donate an additional four digital projectors to four more drive-ins.
The winners will be determined by a vote at www.projectdrivein.com, and votes from the first stage of the contest will carry over.
Voting started this week and will continue until Sept. 21 at midnight. Winners will be announced Monday, Sept. 23 at 9 a.m.
The first five winners were:
Ÿ Sace Drive-In in Saco, Maine.
Ÿ Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor, Mich.
Ÿ Graham Drive-In in Graham, TX.
Ÿ McHenry Outdoor Theater in McHenry, Ill.
Ÿ 99W Drive-In in Newburg, Ore.
"It's urgent that people vote. If they don't vote and we lose, the drive-in will close," said Kurt Fisher, the technical director at the Mahoning Drive-In.
Mahoning Drive-In is currently using a 35 mm film projector to display movies. This is the last year that 35 mm film movies were available from studios, and the theatre is not able to afford a digital projector - which means that if the theatre did not win a free projector, they would be closing.
"The owner is prepared to pay for a new projection booth and patio area. But he cannot pay for the projector too," added Fisher, who noted that a projector for a screen the size of Mahoning's - at 65 feet high, it's the second-largest outdoor theatre screen in the United States, and the only known theatre screen to be built by Bethlehem Steel - is more than $80,000. "Everything hinges on this. If we win we get two screens, a new projection booth, and a new patio area under cover to eat, and a digital projector, which is going to be a lot brighter. If we don't win, it closes."
He noted that it was difficult for a rural drive-in like Mahoning to compete against urban theatres, which have a larger customer base and surrounding community to help rack up the votes, making every vote count for this second round of voting.
"Judging from the number of views that our video is getting, we were probably close to win. Unfortunately, the two urban ones beat us," he said. "There were only five slots and we thought we would be one of the top five."
The drive-in will attempt to raise funds to purchase a new digital projector if they do not win the second round of Project Drive-In, but Fisher noted that it's nearly impossible to raise this amount of money through fundraisers.
"No one has successfully raised $100,000, as far as I know, as far as a drive-in is concerned. It's way too much to expect for our area," he said. "At this point the owner is thinking of closing and selling if we don't win this projector. It would be a shame to lose this whole legacy."
No matter what the contest results, Fisher remained hopeful that Project Drive-In has raised awareness of drive-ins' plight and encouraged families to choose drive-in theatres next summer.
"This project has received more than 2 million votes. That's a lot of votes for anything," he said. "The awareness out there is something that I've never seen before. It's helping all of the drive-ins, not just the winners. People will think twice maybe about driving to go sit next to somebody they don't know to watch an indoor theatre movie. Maybe now they'll think, 'let's take our kids to the outdoor drive-in.'"
To vote for the Mahoning Drive-In Theatre, go to www.projectdrivein.com/vote_21 or text vote21 to 444999.