The Drive-In Theater Lives or Dies with 35mm Prints


We all know the digital age of Cinema is here. More and more things are shot digitally every year, but on the distribution end, it’s gone digital also. Theaters no longer receive 35mm film prints, they play “Digital Cinema Packages” or DCPs. Theaters can still receive 35mm prints right now, but starting next year, that won’t be an option with many major distributors, it will be almost entirely digital.

For filmmakers, going digital was a way to save money often times, however for theaters, it’s got a hefty upfront cost.

For large chains, the transition to digital is virtually complete, but for independent theaters, the upfront cost of a digital projector system capable of playing DCP files is insurmountable. Los Angeles own New Beverley Cinema recently completed it’s Kickstarter documentary about their struggle with trying to preserve their ability to show 35mm films and actually getting prints. Fun fact, Quentin Tarantino is now the landlord of the New Beverley and has promised to keep it running, showing 35mm double features, as long as he is alive and rich.

Independent theaters aren’t the only ones hit hard by the digital change, drive-ins are a dying breed, but the remaining ones in existence will effectively be killed off by the digital transition in 2014.

Honda stepped in and decided they want to save these American Icons and are asking for our help. Granted, I think if Honda really wanted to save them, they could probably do it on their own, but I digress. Nevertheless, I really want to see the drive-in continue it’s proud tradition of unorthodox movie viewing.

Unfortunately for me, the only remaining drive-in of California is in Crescent City, so it would actually be faster for me to fly to Oregon and drive back into California then to actually drive my car to the only Drive-In in the state.

However, there are still hundreds of Drive-Ins all across the rest of America! So take a minute to help them out and bring the drive-ins into the digital age.

Update: There are a few digital projection drive-ins in California apparently, unfortunately LA County is still unrepresented, but West Wind All Digital Drive-Ins are around the west coast for your enjoyment.

Jared Abrams
Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • Bill

    Nate – thanks for posting this. Drive-ins were an important part of my youth, and I will definitely do my part to help. FYI – there are still a few Drive-Ins left in California, but I think they’re already converted to digital:
    That said, it is ironic, and a little sad, that it took a Japanese company to step up to the challenge of saving this important piece of Americana. Where are Ford, GM and Chrysler?

  • natums

    Glad someone shares my nostalgia. I thought there were still some up north, I’ve done my research for LA and every one that I’ve heard of has closed unfortunately. Didn’t know about Santa Barbara though. I’m updating the post to include your link now.

    Agreed! I am glad any car manufacturer stepped in to represent the drive-in, but I think most of us associate it with classic American auto culture.

  • Isaiah

    Hopping on what Bill said last week, I don’t think this Honda list is complete. Besides the digital drive-ins he mentioned, I’m fairly sure there are at least a few old style drive-ins not on this list. The one in Santa Maria, CA comes to mind.,+WA&dq=santa+maria+drive+in&tid=cbc2a9d6508a0242&sa=X&ei=DjoWUpPlFqbJiwKQqoDYBQ&ved=0CDUQxQMoAA

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