Friday, October 31, 2014

Drive-in theater faces off against digital threat

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 8/23/2013

OSAWATOMIE — Modern technology has dealt another blow to drive-in movie theaters, but one eastern Kansas community says it’s not time for its projector to flicker out.

Mid-Way Drive-In, 29591 W. 327th St., Osawatomie, like many other theaters across the nation, is being forced to convert its 35 mm movie reel projector to a digital apparatus, Tamara Maichel, Osawatomie City councilwoman, said. The drive-in is one of the last of its kind in the region, though the digital crunch also has been felt by more traditional theaters, such as Ottawa’s Plaza Grill & Cinema, 209 S. Main St.

OSAWATOMIE — Modern technology has dealt another blow to drive-in movie theaters, but one eastern Kansas community says it’s not time for its projector to flicker out.

Mid-Way Drive-In, 29591 W. 327th St., Osawatomie, like many other theaters across the nation, is being forced to convert its 35 mm movie reel projector to a digital apparatus, Tamara Maichel, Osawatomie City councilwoman, said. The drive-in is one of the last of its kind in the region, though the digital crunch also has been felt by more traditional theaters, such as Ottawa’s Plaza Grill & Cinema, 209 S. Main St.

“They have to do something about getting a new projector and doing modifications for the new digital projector which is around $85,000 I think,” Maichel said. “So far, we’ve raised about $14,000, but I don’t know ... We have to keep working at it and keep saving money to save it.”

Maichel made it her personal mission to spearhead as many benefits and fundraisers as possible to help raise money for the drive-in, she said. She and other volunteers are working to put together golf tournaments, auctions, bake sales and many other events to raise money.

“We have renowned comedian Tom Burgoon coming in Oct. 19,” she said. “We’re going to have a hoe down and chili contest, a pie contest, silent auction, bake sale, and square dance twirlers.”

When word got out the drive-in might be forced to dim its screen for good, Maichel said, many people wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. That’s why she stepped in, she said.

“In the beginning, people were like ‘We need to do this and that’ and I said ‘Yes, we do’ so I stepped forward,” she said. “I talked with Ann and Paul Dimoush, the owners. They were afraid if we raised this money and it didn’t work out, people would think they were being taken advantage of so I created the Mid-Way Drive-In digital fund.”

Along with all the fundraising efforts, Mid-Way Drive-In has entered into a contest hosted by Honda to save the drive-in, she said.

“The top five drive-ins who get the most votes wins a free digital projector,” she said. “The contest goes until Sept. 9, and at the end of September, [contestants] find out who won, but we’re not giving up on the fundraisers were doing.”

Participants can vote from their computer once per day at projectdrivein.com and once via text message each day by texting Vote86 to 444999, according to the Honda website.

It was never a question of if the drive-in should be saved, but how to go about saving it, Maichel said.

“It is a part of our heritage and way of life,” she said. “My parents took me to drive-ins and I took my children and my daughter takes her children now. It gets passed down from generation to generation.”

Keeping ticket prices low is important to the owners, Maichel said. Raising prices to pay for the projector is not an option, she added.

“The owners, they want to keep it inexpensive for those who can’t afford to go,” she said. “They realize the economy is hard and they couldn’t see raising [ticket prices] to where people couldn’t afford to come and bring their families.”

Keeping the drive-in open gives younger kids and teens a place to go to stay out of trouble, she said. As well as great place for a date night.

“My husband and I have gone out there practically every weekend in the summer on date night,” she said. “We wouldn’t even know what the next movie was, we’d just show up. It’s just fun.”

Maichel said she doesn’t even want to think what would happen if the drive-in is forced to shut down.

“I think that there’s going to be people who are really sad over it if nothing can be done,” she said.

Though the drive-in’s goal seems far away, Maichel said, she’s not giving up hope.

“We’re going to stay positive and keep going like we are trying to save the drive-in,” she said. “We’re hoping somebody at the last minute will say ‘Let me save you.’ I just hope that happens.”

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