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Northfield Drive-In goes digital

  • Carla Folkert with the new digital projector at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  They have invested $150,000 in the projector upgrades. Recorder/Paul Franz

    Carla Folkert with the new digital projector at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre. They have invested $150,000 in the projector upgrades. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carla Folkert with the new digital projector at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  They have invested $150,000 in the projector upgrades. Recorder/Paul Franz

    Carla Folkert with the new digital projector at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre. They have invested $150,000 in the projector upgrades. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carla Folkert with one of the old carbon arc projectors now in retirement at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Carla Folkert with one of the old carbon arc projectors now in retirement at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northfield Drive-in Theatre  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Northfield Drive-in Theatre Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carla Folkert and her son Gabriel Shakour in the snack bar at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Carla Folkert and her son Gabriel Shakour in the snack bar at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carla Folkert with the new digital projector at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  They have invested $150,000 in the projector upgrades. Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Carla Folkert with the new digital projector at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  They have invested $150,000 in the projector upgrades. Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Carla Folkert with one of the old carbon arc projectors now in retirement at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Northfield Drive-in Theatre  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Carla Folkert and her son Gabriel Shakour in the snack bar at the Northfield Drive-in Theatre.  Recorder/Paul Franz

NORTHFIELD — Godzilla, you’re looking better than ever.

When the monster arrives this weekend on the Northfield Drive-In’s 54-foot high screen, it will be with a new digital projector, making itself heard in Dolby Digital Sound.

The drive-in’s 66th season opening, which had been in doubt because of the need to convert to the new technology, will feature not only the roaring, destructive lizard followed by “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but also a thoroughly upgraded theater in the pines at the New Hampshire border.

Owner Mitchell Shakour, who failed in an attempt to raise $40,000 in a Kickstarter campaign last year, and drew prospective donors from as far away as Los Angeles and Australia, wound up instead making a more substantial investment to meet the nearly $200,000 cost for modernizing what is today one of only three remaining drive-in theaters in Massachusetts.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Shakour, adding that the new Barco 32B digital projector, which puts out 6,500 watts of light to create a brighter, clearer picture than its 35-millimeter predecessor, cost about $85,000 by itself.

But it also required replacing the theater’s 65-year-old electrical system to a three-phase system, and needed broadband Internet access. The upgrade also required retrofitting and insulating the projection room, which requires heating and cooling even when not in use to prevent damage to the sensitive projector.

The result, Shakour said, is “the brightest picture I’ve seen on our screen in the 40 years I’ve been going down there.” His family has owned the theater since 1968.

There’s also a new playground in store at the drive-in, which along with the snack bar is open each Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for shows that begin at 8:15.

Shakour guessed that the reason the Kickstarter campaign wasn’t successful was that it took too long to get needed business documentation together, so that it was September — after the drive-in season had closed — before it got off the ground. Without reaching its $40,000 goal, the $26,000 raised from 434 backers could not be collected, so the drive-in’s Facebook page was helpful in soliciting nearly $10,000 from about 50 donors.

About $2,000 toward the project came from an auction for two donated Red Sox tickets to the sixth World Series game.

Of workers who did the upgrades at the site, Shakour said, “They took it upon themselves to work on the drive-in as if they were restoring a national icon.”

The Northfield Drive-In, which made it into 1999’s “The Cider House Rules,” manages to balance nostalgia and changing times as relentless as Godzilla’s on-screen attacks. With Hollywood’s demand that theaters stay current with digital and Dolby technology upping the ante for family-owned operations to remain in business, Shakour said, the only other drive-ins left in the state are in Mendon and Wellfleet.

On the Web:

www.northfielddrivein.com

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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