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Honda launches efforts to save some drive-in theaters

August 12, 2013|By Jerry Hirsch
  • The Olympic Drive-In, formerly on Olympic Boulevard in the Sawtelle neighborhood of Los Angeles, is long gone. But Honda hopes to save at least a few remaining drive-in theaters from meeting the same fate. The photo is from the book "Drive-In Movie Memories" by Don and Susan Sanders.
The Olympic Drive-In, formerly on Olympic Boulevard in the Sawtelle neighborhood… (Handout )

The movie industry’s plan to stop distributing 35-millimeter films by the end of this year threatens to shut down the roughly 300 drive-in movie theaters still operating in the U.S.

Most drive-ins don’t make enough money to warrant the estimated $75,000 per screen transition to digital projection. 

The U.S. sales arm of Honda wants to help preserve some of those theaters by supplying at least five drive-ins with digital projectors in an effort to maintain that link between cars and the movies.

PHOTOS: Drive-in theaters

The automaker is sponsoring Project Drive-In, an organization that will give “people easy ways to get involved and ensure that this historic part of American cinema and car culture lives on.”

Drive-in movie lovers can go to Project Drive-In and vote for which five drive-in theaters will receive new digital projectors from Honda. Voting began on Friday  and ends Sept. 9 at 9 p.m.

Honda will reveal the results in September.

"Cars and drive-in theaters go hand-in-hand, and it's our mission to save this decades-old slice of Americana that holds such nostalgia for so many of us," said Alicia Jones, a Honda spokeswoman.

Drive-ins first opened in 1933, reaching their peak during the 1950s and '60s when there were more than 4,000 across the country.

The theaters were invented by Richard Hollingshead Jr., who got inspiration for the business from drive-in restaurants, according to, an enthusiast website.

"We are committed to helping the remaining drive-in theaters flourish with the move to digital projection," Jones said.


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