NEW YORK -- The digital revolution's impact on Hollywood means that drive-ins -- 60 years ago a beloved pastime for American families -- are destined for extinction. But one automaker, Honda Motor Co., is doing its part to try and save a bit of history.
By the end of 2013, Hollywood is expected to halt 35 millimeter film distribution to all U.S. movie theaters. While most indoor chains have all made the switch, the move imperils hundreds of drive-in theaters, given the costly switch to digital projection -- estimated at $75,000 or more per screen.
For small locations that don't have volume in daily ticket sales, justifying the costs of the conversion to digital is a challenge, especially considering that for many theaters the business is seasonal, closing up during the cold-weather months.
Part of Honda's goal is raising community awareness that drive-ins could soon become relics. But Honda is also donating digital projectors as part of a crowdsourcing campaign by its longtime agency, Los Angeles-based agency RPA.
For one month, people are invited to visit www.projectdrivein.com to determine which five drive-in theaters will get a new digital projector on Honda's dime.
The winning theaters will be revealed in September, and each will host a movie celebration that includes a screening of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," which hits theaters late next month.
"Cars and drive-in theaters go hand-in-hand, and it's our mission to save this decades-old slice of Americana that holds such nostalgia for so many of us," said Alicia Jones, manager of Honda & Acura social marketing at American Honda Motor Co. "We're committed to helping the remaining drive-in theaters flourish with the move to digital projection."
The country's first drive-in opened in Camden, N.J. in the early 1930's and at the industry's peak after World War II there were more than 4,000 that represented 25 percent of the nation's movie screens. Today, that's down to 1.5 percent, according to a Los Angeles Times report earlier this year.
Honda's website, which goes live today, encourages people to share Project Drive-In with family and friends via social media using a hashtag, and to make a pledge to see one movie at their local drive-in theater.
The automaker is also encouraging donations to the Honda Project Drive-In Fund to help give out more projectors. Additionally, Honda is creating pop-up efforts at several of its 1,000 dealerships across the country to help raise awareness.
Independent shop RPA has continued to unveil creative efforts for Honda, which stayed parked at the agency following a big pitch earlier this year. But as part of that review, RPA lost its Acura business to Boston-based Mullen.