Drive-in theaters pressured to use digital projectors

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Drive-in movie theaters are a throwback to a simpler time when moviegoers could pull up and watch a classic under the night sky. Now, many drive-ins are struggling to keep up with the times, and some new technology may shut them down for good.

At the Pink Cadillac Drive-In in Hickman County, its 1950s-era projector may soon become a thing of the past.

Hollywood studios are expected to stop distributing 35-millimeter film to all U.S. theaters in coming months, and the costs to convert the film are not cheap for already struggling drive-ins.

Pink Cadillac owner Melissa Curtis says one digital projector will cost between $65,000 and $80,000.

"It's not about money. It's about America. It's a part of America, and I want to be a part of the future, not the past. It's about the community. It's about what you give your children," Curtis said.

Most theaters will have until the end of the year to switch over to digital projectors, and to keep in step with the future, Curtis says they have launched a community fundraising campaign.

"We've had a little bucket out front - maybe $500," she said.

At the Montana Drive-In in Franklin County, they have already made the switch to digital projectors.

"It's like watching an IMAX under the stars, instead of just a regular movie," said co-owner Beth Rhoton.

Rhoton says with all the competition for customers' eyes, digital movies were part of the plan when they built the theater.

"We have other theaters that can help supplement. But the smaller mom and pop businesses, it's just them, and it is a huge investment," she said.

It's an investment that decides if some drive-in theaters are part of the past or a vision of the future.

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