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Looking bad for drive-in

Published September 23. 2013 05:00PM

At 9 a.m. today, the results were revealed for Honda's Project-Drive In, a promotion to provide nine drive-in movie theaters with a free digital movie projector.

The Mahoning Drive-In was not among the winners.

As a result, it appears that this might have been the last year for movies at the local facility.

The winners of the final four projectors through Project Drive-In were:

• Stateline Drive-In, Elizabethton, Tenn.

• Starlite Drive-In, Cadet, Mo.

• Monetta Drive-In, Monetta, S.C.

• Ocala Drive-In, Ocala, Fla.

This was the second chance for theaters to win a projector. An additional five projectors were awarded last week for a total of nine projectors.

As of 9 a.m., Project Drive-In's website,, read "9 Drive-Ins saved, 140 more to go. Meet all the participating drive-ins." The site included the profiles of those drive-ins that entered but did not win a projector through the contest. Projectors were awarded through a public vote.

An additional $43,000 has been gathered through public donations, which Honda has pledged will go to help the remaining theaters.

The owners and those closely involved with the Mahoning Drive-In have noted that Project Drive-In was the theater's last likely chance to remain open.

The theater is currently using a 35 mm film projector. Starting next year, movie studios will no longer provide 35 mm films, instead distributing digital movies to all theaters.

"We'd like to thank everybody for their hard work for the drive-in. They've been real champions," said Kurt Fisher, the technical director at Mahoning Drive-In and the drive behind garnering votes for the theater.

"The word is that if we lose, we close. That's it. I don't know what they're going to do with the place," he added. "I can't see it not continuing in some way in the future, but as far as the next couple years, forget it. Trying to raise enough money through donations is nearly impossible."

For drive-in theaters, the cost to purchase a digital projector has been called an insurmountable hurdle. Fisher has estimated that it will cost approximately $85,000 to purchase a projector for Mahoning's large screen, a tremendous cost for businesses earning just a few thousand dollars in profit each year.

The Mahoning Drive-In first became involved with Project Drive-In this summer, when representatives from Honda's advertising team visited the grounds to film a short commercial supporting the project.

Much of the final footage used in the commercial was taken at Mahoning, including interviews of moviegoers and stop-motion footage of the theater filling with cars.

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