Galva drive-in could use your vote; could save theater

Movie-goers await dusk and the lighting of one of Galva Autovue Drive-In Theatre's showings of “Monsters University” earlier this season.

Like small-town drive-in movie theater owners all across the U.S., Justin West is facing an uphill battle.

A push from you could really help him.

West, owner of Galva Autovue Drive-In Theatre, is showing films on his screens for the ninth year this summer. But unless he gets a monetary boost, it could be the theater's last year.

Hollywood is pushing for all theaters to convert from 35mm projection to digital movie projection. West said that over 80 percent of theaters in the U.S. have made the change. Most, though, are big-city theaters with revenue which can afford to make the switch.

"Like my little seasonal drive-in, the rest are still running 35mm film," he said. "However, the supply of such prints is expected to substantially diminish, if not disappear entirely by the end of 2013.

"If theaters do not convert, they will have no choice but to close. This will leave A LOT of small-town America 'culturally-challenged,' and, in the case of outdoor theaters, 'nostalgically-challenged.'"

West said the cost of converting to digital would be about $140,000 for his two-screen theater – $70,000 per screen. That's a huge chunk for a theater in his market size.

"When you consider that drive-ins in the northern U.S. climes typically run maybe four months out of the year (spring and summer) and that small-town locations may operate weekends-only during those four months, well . . . attempting to amortize such an expenditure is daunting at best," West said.

Simply put, without the funding to convert to digital projection, Galva Autovue will have to close.

The public can help West's chances by participating in a Honda America-sponsored contest going on now. In the contest, Honda will award digital projectors to the top five vote-getting drive-ins. Vote at or by texting to 444-999 with the message, "VOTE50." You can vote daily either online or by texting.

Voting ends Sept. 9.