Drive-in theaters threatened without upgrades

Posted at: 08/16/2013 11:43 PM
Updated at: 08/16/2013 11:53 PM
By: Dan Levy

GLENMONT - In their heyday during the 1950's more than 4,000 drive-in movie theaters dotted the American landscape. Today there are only about 350 of them left, and that number is likely to shrink in the coming years, thanks to changing technology.

They might very well symbolize the essence of American culture. Drive-in movies are as traditional as baseball and apple pie, but in a rapidly changing industry, theater owners, like Michael Chenette of the Jericho Drive-In in Glenmont, who are unable to adapt to digital technology, they quickly finding that their silver screens have created a golden dilemma.

"We've got some sleepless nights just thinking about this," Chenette says, "I've been here for 18 years and I've put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this place and I really don't want it to be here in this situation. I'd like it to be here for my kids and my grandchildren."

After several property improvements in recent years, Chenette says dishing out another $75,000 for a projector upgrade would be difficult at this time. That's why he'd love to win a national contest sponsored by Honda automobiles, to find the top five drive-ins in American, and they'll foot the bill for the digital upgrade.

"We can do fine at the drive-in but it's just a matter of getting over this hump," Chenetee says.

Missing out on summer drive-in movies might leave a giant void in American family life.

"I think it'd be very disappointing," said Jackie Klein, of Delmar. "The kids always make their summer list of things to do and the drive-in is always on there."

"I'd rather come to a drive-in theater then go to the mall," said Robin Garcia, of Slingerlands.

That sentiment is shared with kids all across America who get to go to the movies wearing pajamas.

"You get to lay down in the back of your car if you're at the drive-in," said 9-year old Aijah Garcia.

"It's more fun than regular movies," said 7-year old Sophie Klein, "it's more fun because there's an ice cream truck with yummy ice cream."

"I hope to do this for the rest of my life," Chenette said. "I definitely have some concerns but I'm going to do everything I can to make sure this place survives."

The Jericho is just one of several Capital Region drive-ins that need to convert to digital by next year.

If you'd like to have a say, log on to 'Project Drive-in' on your computer and vote for your favorite drive-in. You can vote twice a day up until September 9th.

The top five vote getters will receive new digital projectors compliments of Honda.