Project Drive-In roundup 4: The list that wouldn’t die

In the third installment of our roundup of candidates for Honda’s Project Drive-In, I predicted that Honda would choose more than five lucky recipients of digital projectors. What I really didn’t anticipate was that Honda would reopen voting for the second set of winners.

With another round of voting comes another round of candidates that we haven’t mentioned so far, along with some (marked with an asterisk) who saw new stories about them after voting was extended. If you’re reading this, you’re already online, so go vote for your favorite!

* This drive-in was in a previous roundup, but a new story has been published about it after Honda extended voting for Project Drive-In.

A brilliant suggestion to Honda: Finance the losers

Project Drive-In logoAs we continue our long, extended Drive-In Project journey, we will pause to thank Honda for its generous support in supplying nine digital projectors to struggling drive-in theaters. And then we will pass along a great suggestion posted yesterday evening.

The Johnson City TN Press ran an article about the State Line Drive-In of nearby Elizabethton and its reaction to Honda’s voting extension giving the State Line another chance. One Gabe Curde, possibly a Johnson City real estate agent, left a superb suggestion as a comment to that story: “Why doesn’t Honda offer 0% financing on these projectors to any half way qualified drive-in owners who don’t win a contest?”

That’s simply brilliant. Consider the stories about the Apache (Globe AZ), making it more famous on its deathbed than it ever was in life. Owner Bobby Hollis told a Cronkite News Service reporter, “Nobody is gonna loan me the money to convert to digital. Trust me, I’ve looked.” Honda has the resources to offer Hollis and any other drive-in owner some really good financing on projectors. And it would even help publicize Honda’s financing arm for wavering new-car buyers. C’mon, Honda, how about it?

BusinessWeek features Mesa Drive-In

Exit sign from the Mesa Drive-In

Exit sign from the Mesa Drive-In. Photo by mrdrivein, from the Carload Flickr pool.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek picked up Honda’s Project Drive-In renovation story, and its article this week focused mainly on one of my favorites. The Mesa (Pueblo CO) serves hamburgers that could be the featured dish at any restaurant, and they keep a good selection of movies showing at a pretty good location on the east side of town.

The article is great, but it isn’t perfect. It implies that Chuck and Marianne James added a couple of new screens right after they bought the Mesa in 1993, but that didn’t happen until 2000, when they recycled the screens from two closed Colorado drive-ins – the Pines near Loveland and the Estes in Estes Park.

Under the James’ careful stewardship, the place has done really well. The article describes a scene from 1994 when “3,427 people showed up for a double feature of Jurassic Park and The Flintstones, hanging out car windows and climbing trees to get a good view. A traffic jam stretched two miles down Highway 50.” After the Pueblo police intervened, the Mesa restricted the number of cars to 750, for an attendance of about 1800.

As with so many other drive-ins, the Mesa is scrambling to pay for new digital projectors. Although they’ve been saving up for the purchase, the Jameses don’t yet have the $210,000 necessary to convert three screens. Chuck said he’s really hoping that winning a free projector from Honda will put a big dent in that figure, but even if he loses, he hopes to stay open next year. “We’ll take our good credit and equity to the bank and start begging for money,” he said. “Please give me a loan for a projector! I promise I’ll pay!”

For a broader background on the national plight of drive-ins and more about the Mesa, go read the article! (Update: The Apache in Globe AZ was added to the Project Drive-In list after this post.) By the way, I was a little surprised that the Mesa is the only one of only two contest entrants in the Carload coverage area of 16 or 17 drive-ins (depending on whether we can still count the burnt Sunset in Vernal UT). If you’re a Colorado drive-in fan, you might want to set yourself a daily reminder to vote for the Mesa. I want to eat those hamburgers for years to come.