Drive-in theaters threatened with extinction by the digital revolution are getting a helping hand.
The National Assn. of Theatre Owners and the company Cinedigm, which supplies digital equipment and content to the exhibition industry, said they will help drive-in theaters secure financing to pay for the cost of converting from film to digital projectors.
Most drive-in theaters, which are independently owned and seasonally operated, have not yet converted to digital, raising the prospect that many will be left behind when studios stop releasing movies on actual film sometime this year. Only about 10% of drive-in exhibitors have installed digital projectors for their large outdoor screens, according to the theater association.
To address the problem, the trade group and Cinedigm have agreed to extend an existing program that uses so-called "virtual print fees," paid by studios, to finance the deployment of digital projectors.
"Traditional movie theaters across the nation have embraced the many benefits of digital cinema,” said John Fithian, president of NATO. “Cinedigm and NATO’s collaborative efforts have played a significant role in that transition and we are thrilled to partner with Cinedigm again to bring drive-ins into the digital age.”