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?

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.

Media outlets celebrate 80 years of drive-ins

Fiesta Drive-In screen

photo by Neon Michael, from the Carload Flickr pool

Rather than adding separate posts about everybody celebrating the 80th anniversary of the drive-in theater, I’ll put them all together for you here so you can read as many of them as you want.

  • USA Today picked up a Cherry Hills NJ Courier-Post story. The best part is a photo of the first drive-in courtesy of Pauline Hollinghead, the inventor’s nephew’s wife.
  • ran an article with a different photo of that first drive-in. The article adds some perspective I hadn’t seen elsewhere. “The theater opened in an era when Admiral Wilson Boulevard and adjacent Crescent Boulevard (Route 130) were lined with flashy attractions and establishments of all sorts, including a dog-racing track, an airport, and an enormous Sears department store (now undergoing demolilition).”
  • used the occasion for an interview with Craig Derman, photographer of The Drive-In Project, a look at abandoned drive-in movie theaters across America. And it shows a picture of the Comanche (Buena Vista CO). Hey, the Comanche isn’t abandoned!
  • The Connecticut Post ran a slide show of classic drive-in photos, leading off with the iconic Life Magazine photo with Charlton Heston that we talked about earlier.
  • ABC News ran a different set of black and white drive-in photos, mostly from Getty Images.
  • Parade had yet another slide show.
  • The press release web site used the anniversary to promote the Family Drive-In Theatre (Stephens City VA) as part of Go Blue Ridge Travel’s “Kids Bucket List“. Have we already forgotten what “bucket list” means? Do kids around there have a high mortality rate?
  • The Kentuck Art Center (Northport AL) commemorated the occasion in its monthly Art Night with an outdoor screen looping vintage intermission ads and a drive-in themed photo booth for visitors to use, according to the University of Alabama’s The Crimson White.
  • Finally, the Orange County Register posted a great infographic (PDF) about the rise and fade of drive-ins through the years. Check it out!