Drive-in movie theater needs online votes to survive

CorrespondentAugust 19, 2013 

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Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater in Henderson, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — Robert Willett

  • How to cast your vote

    Vote for Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre on projectdrivein.com. You can vote once a day every day through Sept. 8.

    Visit Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre at 3336 Raleigh Road, Henderson. More info at raleighroaddrivein.com

There aren’t many local drive-in movie theaters left these days, but Honda is hoping to help preserve those still around.

The Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in Henderson is one of the drive-ins across the country selected by Honda to compete in Project Drive-In, an initiative to grant five drive-ins across the country new digital projectors – an upgrade that could be the difference between life and death for many mom-and-pop establishments.

The digital projectors are awarded to the five theaters with the most votes on the project’s website by Sept. 8.

Movie studios are making the transition from 35mm film to digital projection, leaving many independent theaters scrambling. A digital projector and its installation costs around $80,000, according to the Project Drive-In website.

For many drive-ins, this contest is their last chance.

The Raleigh Road theater, which is about an hour north of Raleigh, has been in business for 63 years, said Craig Askew, who has worked at the theater for eight years. Askew says a member of his family has worked at the drive-in since the day it opened, and Askew has taken it upon himself to keep the tradition alive for decades to come.

Without the new equipment? “We shut down, we go away, in six months to a year” Askew said. “Without that, us theaters can’t survive.”

To many, going to the drive-in is about more than just catching a flick. It’s a reminder of simpler times, a staple of American culture and a rare, memorable experience for the entire family.

“We do it because we truly love the drive-in,” Askew said. “It’s a magical experience when you hang out and watch a movie together. It’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”

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