The Pageant is part of Honda’s Project Drive-In – an effort to keep the lights on at drive-ins across the country that need to switch to digital projection to stay in business. Honda has extended its digital projector contest through Saturday.
“We planned on saving five drive-ins, but with your help we will be able to help save nine,” according to the Project Drive-in website, which also is taking pledges.
So far, the project has given away five digital projectors, roughly $80,000 each, to drive-ins in Saco, Maine; Honor, Michigan; Graham, Texas; McHenry, Ill; and Newberg, Ore.
The project started because Hollywood is preparing to role the end credits on film. Amid the transition, industry officials say that the number of movies produced on 35-millimeter film will continue to diminish until the movie reel is obsolete, just like cassette and VHS tape. It’s expected that film won’t last much past this year.
In the 1950s, there were 4,000 drive-ins throughout the country. Then one by one, they began closing as customers waned. The Pageant is one of only 368 drive-ins left in the United States. Most still need to make the transition to digital, according to the project’s website. The website expects many could face closure by the end of the year if the switch from film to digital isn’t made.
It’s tough on drive-ins because the upgrade is so expensive – especially for a summer business like the Pageant. Owner Mike Sill said he can’t afford the large investment himself. It would take years to pay off the costly equipment.
Sill is still hopeful votes will keep his longtime family business from closing. His goal is to help keep the community of Medicine Lodge thriving, thus the lights on at the Pageant.
“It’s basically a hobby,” Sill said last month of his side business that runs most weekends through the summer.
The Pageant first opened in the early 1950s, Sill’s father, Wayne “Frosty” Sill purchased the drive-in and the indoor complex in Medicine Lodge in 1968.
To vote for the Pageant, go to http://projectdrivein.com/#vote_93. On a phone, text vote 93 to 444999. Sill said visitors can vote daily.