Graham is third winner from Project Drive-In

The Graham Drive-In (Graham TX) was announced today as the third winner in Honda’s Project Drive-In. By finishing among the top five candidates as voted on by Project Drive-In visitors, the Graham will receive a digital projector to help keep the drive-in experience alive.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram picked up the story, saying that the Graham’s spirited social media presence (such as its Facebook page) helped drive enough voters to the online polls. On that page, the winners posted, “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! WE COULD NOT HAVE IT DONE WITHOUT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!” Personally, I think the “Zombie-free” YouTube video got a lot of people’s attention.

Other news outlets that picked up the story included the Graham Leader, Wichita Falls’s news leader KFDX, and for some reason, the Rock Hill SC Herald. The Leader pointed out that other Texas drive-ins still in the running included “The Brazos, in Granbury, and Sky-Vue Drive-In, in Lamesa.” Over the next couple of days, we’ll see who else wins.

Cherry Bowl wins Project Drive-In’s second projector

Cherry Bowl Drive-In marquee showing Thank You

photo courtesy of PRNewsFoto / American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

The Cherry Bowl Drive-In (Honor MI) is today’s winner of Honda’s Project Drive-In. “Thank you to everyone who voted, and voted, and voted!” said the Cherry Bowl’s web site today. “Without you this would never have been possible.”

WPBN, Traverse City’s news leader, picked up the story, noting that “A Benzie County landmark will stay open thanks to hundreds of its fans.” In an earlier WPBN story, Cherry Bowl owner Laura Clark said, ”This 35mm film, 120-year-old technology is going to be going away by the end of the year. Without this film, these projectors – everything in this room – is obsolete.”

Honda had filmed some of its Project Drive-In online commercials at the Cherry Bowl, one of only a few places that Honda visited before the contest. That exposure, plus a story in the Detroit News, might have driven enough voters to support the Cherry Bowl as it continues forward entertaining its fans for years to come.

Saco is Project Drive-In’s first winner

Saco Drive-In screen at twilight, showing a movie

photo by ignote

As Honda put it in today’s press release, Saco Drive-In (Saco ME) has become the first of five drive-in theaters no longer in jeopardy of closing its doors thanks to Honda’s Project Drive-In. With the end of 35-mm film distribution this year, and the costly switch to digital projection nearing, Honda created Project Drive-In as a national effort to save as many of America’s remaining drive-ins as possible. Honda, which said it received over two million votes, is announcing the winners one day at a time.

The Saco Facebook page is a hub of celebration today. Its manager posted, “I have finally stopped crying! I could not believe it! To think 3 months ago we were sitting around a table talking about how we were going to do this and being so discouraged that there was just literally no way to save it, and then comes this project and your support and your dedication is the reason why we won! Without all of you I can promise this never would have happened. Your energy is what kept me going night after night for the last 30 days with maybe 2hrs of sleep a night you helped push me through it to make sure everyone knew about this project!”

The Portland Press-Herald also picked up the story and added a bit of history. “This year marks the 74th season for the Saco Drive-In, which was originally called the Motor-In Theatre when it was opened in 1939 by Italian immigrant Eugene V. Boragine. It is the second-oldest drive-in theater in the country.” That’s second-oldest still in operation; at least a dozen others opened before the Saco. But I digress.

The Saco is throwing a special celebration party tonight at 6. And Honda adds that “following the September 21 Los Angeles premiere of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, all drive-ins receiving digital projectors, care of Honda’s Project Drive-In, will have the opportunity to screen the highly-anticipated film before its wide release date.” It’s like winning a new car and getting a really great air freshener too. We’ll keep track of the other four winners in the days to come.

Watch the Kenwood Drive-In screen come down


The good news is that the screen from the Kenwood Drive-In (Louisville KY) is in good shape and will be recycled at the Georgetown Drive-In, just across the river in Georgetown IN. The bad news is that it had to come down, because the Kenwood, dormant since 2009, is now thoroughly closed.

The Courier-Journal of Louisville recorded the screen’s final day with an article and the video embedded above. According to the Courier-Journal, the screen’s rusted bolts slowed workers’ efforts to remove it. “After hours cutting at the base of the screen with a torch, the final bolt was cut and without much warning, the screen crashed to the ground.”

WAVE, Louisville’s news leader, also chimed in with a bit of video and a short story. Both sources say the screen was cut into pieces for shipment to the Georgetown, where it will stay in storage as a reserve screen. I hate to see a drive-in die, but it’s always good when its pieces live on somewhere else.

Meadow Bridge Drive-In keeps its locals together

Meadow Bridge Drive-In marquee

Photo by neshachan. Used by permission.

With all the talk about drive-ins in trouble, we need a positive, uplifting article about a drive-in. The Register-Herald of Beckley WV has come to our rescue with a fine, lengthy story about the Meadow Bridge Drive-In (Meadow Bridge WV). On a summer night, the Meadow Bridge is the only local source of dining and entertainment, and the community gathers there for a good time. “It’s like a picnic at night. And it’s a tradition,” says owner Howard McClanahan.

The Meadow Bridge was built in 1953 by a local guy. Eventually, Thomas Theaters ran it, and years later “(w)ord on the street was that the theater was going to turn X-rated because its screen faced away from the road.” That’s when McClanahan, then a projectionist, bought the place.

There are no worries about the digital conversion here. McClanahan already bought his digital projector, which cost more than he spent to buy the Meadow Bridge in the first place, and he’s happy with the results.

There is so much more to this article, including lots of photos with lengthy captions, happy anecdotes of pizza and other community attractions, and a long, lingering warm feeling in general. You just know that you should go read it!

Twin-City Drive-In plans to “close or sell”

Twin City drive-in photo from 1952As we near the end of the voting for Honda’s Project Drive-In, it’s sobering to remember what could happen to the drive-ins that don’t finish among the winners. The Johnson City (TN) Press reported that the Twin City Drive-In of nearby Bristol may close for good unless its owner can find someone willing to buy the place and install a digital projector.

The Bristol News also ran a story on the Twin City, which sits near Bristol Motor Speedway. The News wrote that the Twin City’s marquee “recently showed a ‘For Sale’ sign posted during race week to see if there was any interest in the theater, priced at $4.5 million.” (No one bought it at that price.) According to that article, the drive-in’s yearly property tax bill had risen from $4,000 to $20,000 because of business attracted by the race track.

The Press article quoted Twin City owner Danny Warden as saying, “We’re going to show through this year, and unless something changes, that might be it. You never know, though, we’ve had a couple of people who say they might be interested in buying it. If someone buys it and switches to digital, then it will stay open.”

That price tag looks a little steep to me, but I sure hope someone finds a way to buy this reportedly profitable drive-in and bring it into the digital age.

Project Drive-In roundup 3: Dark of the screen


I warned you that it might come to this. With less than a week left in Honda’s Project Drive-In voting period, I’ve found media reports about a few more of the candidates.

Here’s something confusing: Some of those media reports only partially duplicate other reports. That is, if a new story lists drive-ins A, B, and C, but a story from one of my first two round-ups already mentioned A and C, then I’ve added B as a new candidate in this third round-up. If you click through to the story, it’ll mention all three, but we know that B is the only one that’s new to this list. Okay?

With that in mind, let’s go through a few more:

And that should hold us on Project Drive-In news until they start talking about winners. Wouldn’t it be nice if Honda chose more than five?

Boston Public Radio discusses New England drive-ins

Saco Drive-In ticket booth

Saco Drive-In, photo by Joe Shlabotnik

We do love our video here, but Carload also appreciates hearing great audio. Boston Public Radio station WGBH hosted a 14-minute interview with film critic Garen Daly to discuss drive-in memories and the outlook for drive-in theaters in the future. You can listen to it here.

Yet another feature of this New England drive-in roundup is a list of all the surviving drive-ins in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, along with the dates they were born.

One thing that often strikes me is when someone, as during this interview, brings up the movie American Graffiti when discussing drive-in theaters. The centerpiece of American Graffiti was a drive-in restaurant, but there were no theaters depicted in that movie. Anyway, despite that minor irritant, I think you ought to go listen.

Project Drive-In roundup 2, The Sequel


In my last post, I began the task of listing every local media report of every local drive-in that’s participating in Honda’s Project Drive-In. Foolishly, I thought that I might gather up all of them in one sitting. When I hit 20 theaters, each with a similar tale of tenuous finance and this lottery-ticket hope for survival, my eyes had glazed over, and I barely had the strength to finish off the post and click Publish.

Two days later, I’m ready again to see how many more drive-in reports I can list. Again, they’re alphabetized by state. And again, if you click through and find a particularly cool detail we should all know about, please leave a comment.

More of your candidates:

Whew again! That’s 20 more drive-ins with local coverage of their Project Drive-In eligibility. I don’t know whether there are 20 more that I haven’t mentioned, but if I spot enough new ones, there may be a third episode of this franchise.

Project Drive-In roundup


I’ll admit it. I’ve been so overwhelmed by the local media coverage of Honda’s Project Drive-In that it’s been hard to write. On one hand, I don’t especially want you to vote for some Florida drive-in over one on Ohio or vice versa. Heck, I’ve even noticed that Honda has added at least a couple drive-ins (such as the Apache) that weren’t there when voting started.

There are only so many ways I can spin the local news when it says that nearby drive-in X needs to convert to digital projection, and its best / only hope is if it is one of the Project Drive-In winners. So I’m just going to gather them all a bunch of them in this list. There are probably lots of interesting, fresh details here and there about each drive-in, but I’m going to let you discover them. If you find something sufficiently cool, post a comment about it, will you please?

Your candidates, alphabetized by state:

Whew! That’s 20 theaters so far. I’ll see how many more I can round up for our next installment.