NEWBERG, Ore. – Indie movie theatres have been trying to make the switch to digital projectors, with many turning to crowd-funding sources like Kickstarter to raise the money.
But, drive-ins also must make the switch to digital by the end of the year. The last film-only drive in Oregon is in Newberg.
The owner is part of a nation-wide contest in hopes of winning a digital upgrade.
The 99W Drive-in is a third-generation family-owned theatre in Newberg. It opened July 31, 1953 and is now celebrating 60 years of movie going – all of it using film.
But, as with all theatres, the studios are phasing out film and going all digital. Digital projectors are expensive and 99W Drive-in owner Brian Francis found out about a contest from Honda.
The top five vote-getters win an $80,000 digital upgrade.
“We're like the last to change. We’re the slow one to go digital, but it's time now to do that and films will be distributed on a hard drive,” Francis said.
The theater is just one of a handful of drive-ins left. In their heyday, as many as 4,000 drive-ins dotted the American landscape. Today there are only 350 left, and only five west of the Mississippi.
Voting ends in 16 days.
Francis said if they don't win, they will somehow make the conversion. He said he knows how important the drive-in is to Newberg and the history of drive-ins.
KGW business reporter Joe Smith contributed to this report.