Digital era threatens tenuous future of drive-ins

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LANCASTER, Ohio (AP) — The drive-in movie has been a part of American life for the past 80 years. Now it's facing its latest challenge: the digital era.

Film studios are phasing out 35 mm film prints. That means the 350 or so U.S. drive-ins that are left will have to invest in digital projection equipment or turn out the lights.

The industry says many of the mostly mom-and-pop operations won't be able to make the investment, even with a program that will reimburse them some of the cost.

The United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association figures that 50 to 60 theaters have made the switch, but it's impossible to tell at this stage how many will be able to follow.

The number of U.S. drive-ins peaked at more than 4,000 in the late 1950s.