BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
4:41 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

The Dwindling Drive-In Theaters Of New England

The sun sets as viewers take in a drive-in movie. Theaters are struggling to stay financially solvent as film studios begin the conversion to digital film.
The sun sets as viewers take in a drive-in movie. Theaters are struggling to stay financially solvent as film studios begin the conversion to digital film.
Credit vistavision / Flickr

There was a time when a night of good entertainment meant loading the kids in the car, driving to city limits and taking in a drive-in movie as dusk set in. Car-bound audiences munched popcorn and candy while watching the latest hit movies, as well as campy sci-fi and monster movies.

Drive-in theaters have fallen on hard times. Operators now compete with state-of-the-art cinema — equipped with cushy seats, surround sound and climate control — as well as increasing home access to millions of movie titles with only a few clicks of a mouse.

The death knell for the nation's remaining 357 drive-in theaters could be the digital switch. Movie studios have committed to a phaseout of all 35 mm film in favor of digital files to play films. The cost to theaters is approximately $70,000 for a new digital projector, as well as more to protect projectors from the elements.

Film critic Garen Daly told Boston Public Radio that New England's drive-in theaters aren't immune to the financial pinch. The area boasts many durable drive-ins that have weathered the decades and played films every summer. Their resilience will be tested by this digital switch.

Want to support a theater? Here's Garen Daly's list of New England drive-in movie theaters.

Connecticut

Maine

Massachusetts

New Hampshire

Rhode Island

Vermont

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