We don’t really have drive-in movie venues in the UK (because of the stupid weather) so I’ve always been a little obsessed with them. They seem so quintessentially American, like Twinkies or Homecoming Queens and an eternity away from the local fleapit cinemas of northern England that stank of stale cigarette smoke and cheap popcorn. However, a fondness for nostalgia and old timey Americana won’t pay the box office bills and the drive-in film industry, after decades of steady decline, is facing its most serious threat yet.

By the end of this year, 35mm film distribution to all U.S. movie theatres will cease and while most of the big multiplex chains have already made the switch to digital projection, the cost of doing so (an average of $80,000 per screen) is so prohibitive it is threatening drive-in businesses across the States. To raise awareness and help protect the industry, car manufacturer Honda (makes perfect sense) have launched a contribution fund via Indiegogo and are donating digital projectors to the five drive-ins that win the public vote. Project Drive-In will run until September 9th 2013 and the campaign incorporates video and social media in a bid to capture the public’s imagination and commitment.

save the drive in

The first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933 and attendance reached an all time high in the late 50’s and early 60’s with around 4000 venues throughout America. During that era, a staggering 25% of movie screens were in a drive-in location as opposed to just 1.5% in 2013. There are only 368 active drive-ins still open.

Alicia Jones, manager of Honda & Acura social marketing at American Honda Motor Co said of the initiative:

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. We’re committed to helping the remaining drive-in theaters flourish with the move to digital projection.

You can see the campaign video here and help save venues such as Michigan’s Cherry Bowl Drive-In: