Friday, March 01, 2013

Digital Projection and Drive-In Theaters

Throughout the summer of 1982 I spent a summer working at the now defunct Cascade Drive-In Theater in Yakima, WA. Among my many duties of monitoring the field, pulling weeds and helping behind the concession stand, I had the enjoyable time lugging upstairs heavy canisters of film. Oh, how they dug deep into the palms of my small hands.

Projectionist Walter Becker gets a 35mm projector ready at the Cascade Drive-In Theater. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
Nowadays, with the advent of digital projection, those heavy spools of film are on their way out, on the heels of cassette tapes, VHS movies and compact discs. However, this isn't welcomed news for most drive-in theaters, as explained in this article excerpt by David Gatham of the Chicago Sun-Times Media...

In recent decades, movies have been delivered to theaters in cans of film. Projectionists then had to lay these out on a “platter” some 6 feet wide and splice each reel together so the film could be fed into a projector.
Each can of film weighed about 9 pounds and contained about 20 minutes of movie. The film for a movie such as “Titanic” weighed about 100 pounds, required physically splicing together five miles of film, and cost its studio more than $1,000 each to copy.
Now, Charlestowne projection-booth manager Eric Hutchins said, a movie arrives in the form of a computer hard drive about 8 inches long, light enough to hold easily in one hand. And soon, most movies will be delivered to the theater via a satellite download.
But the mom-and-pop operators of drive-ins and old-style downtown theaters face a double whammy. Unable to take advantage of economies of scale and often forced to change their ventilation and electrical systems, too, they must pay $100,000 or more for each new system. Yet they have a smaller income base upon which to draw.
Drive-ins such as the Cascade on Route 64 in West Chicago and the McHenry Outdoor in McHenry can operate for only eight months or so per year. Old-stye movie houses such as the Catlow in downtown Barrington often show older movies at bargain prices, operating as much for the love of what they do as to make a profit.
So in an effort to stay alive in the coming digital age, the Cascade, McHenry and Catlow have turned to an unorthodox new method of finance — asking their fans to donate money toward their digital conversion via a website called that conducts charity-style fundraising drives for projects in the arts.
Their efforts have met with varying success...
For the entire article, click right HERE.

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