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Editorial: Drive-in dilemma

Once upon a time, their numbers were plentiful, often looming up on the landscape. Colorful and loud, they made their mark across the nation. But as the environment changed, these behemoths found it tougher and tougher to survive. Some evolved, allowing them to continue living while others simply were lost to the sands of time.

While it may be true that the drive-in movie theater is a dinosaur when it comes to entertainment in America, such venues continue to provide a unique and enjoyable experience for young and old alike. And given how few of these places now dot the landscape, Franklin County residents and their neighbors in the area continue to have had the privilege of taking in a movie under the stars via the Northfield Drive-In.

But as reported in The Recorder this week, after 65 years, the local drive-in’s continued existence isn’t a given.

Mitchell Shakour and his wife, who have been running the drive-in since 1978, are faced with a significant financial investment — $200,000 — to replace the theater’s arc-and carbon projectors with a digital projection system. In different times, you might say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the Northfield Drive-In isn’t driving this changeover. Instead, it’s the movie industry, which in keeping up with the technological times, has made the switch to digital films, and expects its outlets to keep pace.

If times were flush, that is to say if the Northfield Drive-In were playing to packed crowds seven days a week, that $200,000 would still be a large amount of money. But for a place that’s running just during the weekends, from May to September drawing small crowds, the money necessary for the digital system is a much bigger deal.

That’s not to say the Shakours aren’t willing to make that kind of investment, but ...

Perhaps there’s a way though that drive-in movie fans can help see that money for the Northfield Drive-In isn’t the issue. If the movie industry wants theaters to use a more modern approach to showing their products, then perhaps a modern fundraising method is what’s called for here, like a Kickstarter campaign. That’s where a project’s creators establish the monetary goal and a deadline. As the Kickstarter website puts it, “If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. All-or-nothing funding might seem scary, but it’s amazingly effective in creating momentum and rallying people around an idea.”

The way we see it, such an effort would be an effective way for the Shakours and their fans to get the word out about the Northfield Drive-In, not just to those familiar with the venue, but to drive-in movie buffs around the country who don’t want to see another one close.

The public can let the Shakours know what they think by contacting them through Facebook (www.facebook.com/northfielddrivein) or at its website (www.northfielddrivein.com).

Let them know that they want the Northfield Drive-In to be back for many summers to come, and would be willing to kick-start that effort.

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