By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Project Drive-In, sponsored by Honda, has pitted the Wheel-In, the only drive-in theater operating on the North Olympic Peninsula, against 100 other drive-in theaters nationwide in an Internet contest that ends at 9 p.m. Pacific Time on Sept. 9.
To cast a vote, visit http://tinyurl.com/drive-incontest.
Voters can cast a preference once daily on each device they own or use.
The top five vote-getters will win digital projection systems.
Such systems will be needed soon to show new movies. Studios will no longer distribute them on film after this year.
“We may not win because we are from a small town, and a lot of the other theaters are in large population centers,” said Wheel-In owner Rick Wiley, who also owns and operates the Uptown Theatre in Port Townsend.
“If we don’t win, we will find a way to acquire the new equipment,” he said.
“But this is helping us increase awareness and to develop a network so we can explore all of our options.”
Wiley said he’s not getting his hopes up. Entering the contest was a result of “needing to explore every opportunity, throw everything on the wall and see what sticks.”
Wiley, 56, has been around the Wheel-In all his life. The theater, which is at 210 Theater Road just south of the junction of state Highways 19 and 20, was opened by his grandfather and is now in its 60th year of operation.
The cost of a digital conversion is about $80,000, a prohibitive expense for many theaters that are running on thin profit margins, according to a statement from Honda.
The cost of the projector represents a majority of the conversion expense, but there are other necessary purchases such as a server that Wiley will need to finance, he said.
The Wheel-In is one of about 100 theaters now competing. Others can sign up to participate, according to Honda spokesman Chris Martin.
“Having a car company involved in this is a natural fit since you need a car to go to a drive-in,” Martin said.
“There are a lot of drive-ins around our manufacturing plants,” he said.
“We are an American manufacturer, and this is a slice of Americana that needs to be preserved.”
The Honda website will post a running vote total.
As of Thursday afternoon, nearly 395,000 votes had been cast. Vote totals for individual businesses will not be disclosed until the contest ends.
“We don’t want to discourage theaters who have lower vote totals from continuing their efforts,” he said.
“We want to keep them involved, since a lot of times, they will be able to catch up.”
The winning theaters will be announced in September, and each winning theater will host a free screening of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” a computer-animated family film, at that time.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.