Contest could cut costs for going digital

Old technology needs to get a makeover in order to move into the digital age.

The Cherry Bowl Drive-In has been a landmark in Benzie County for 60 years. With changes to the movie industry, however, it's in danger of going dark because of the high cost of going digital.

Honda is sponsoring a contest that could help save the theater, but it'll take a lot of help from fans.

People can start voting Friday, August 9. The contest will be open for one month. Honda will then notify the winning theaters later in September. Voters will get two chances a day: one online vote and one via text. Not many contest details have been released yet, but you can check the drive-inâ??s website for more information, or head over to Hondaâ??s contest page.

The Cherry Bowlâ??s owner tells 7&4 News sheâ??s grateful for the contest. She says something needs to be done, so families can continue making memories.

People come from miles around to catch a flick on the big screen at the Cherry Bowl in Honor, Michigan.

â??On any given weeknight, we might have 80% of our cars with out of state plates,â?? said Adrian Poulisse who works at the theater.

Visitors come early and stay late because of the family atmosphere. The movies donâ??t typically start until 10, but families pour in to get a good parking spot, sometimes as early as 6. They play mini golf, romp around on the playground, start a game of volleyball, and order movie snacks from the concession stand.

â??You know that it's somewhere that you're not worried about what your kids are exposed to,â?? said Kari Ryan. The Rogers City resident visits the theater every year while vacationing nearby. â??You know they can run around, have fun and laugh. You can relax as a parent, and just know they're ok.â??

Many people 7&4 News spoke with say going to the drive-in is a family tradition they enjoy passing along.

â??We used to come here in high school, now we come with our kids,â?? said Poulisse.

â??I did it as a child growing up,â?? said Ryan. â??It gives me an opportunity to share that with my children.â??

This family experience is in danger due to a major switch in the movie industry. By the end of the year all movie-makers are ditching the film and going completely digital.

â??This 35mm film, 120-year-old technology is going to be going away by the end of the year,â?? said Cherry Bowl owner Laura Clark. â??Without this film, these projectors--everything in this room--is obsolete.â??

There is a hefty price tag on stepping into the digital age. The projector alone will cost around $80,000, but many changes are needed on top of that. The new system requires climate control, including heat during the winter months when the theater isnâ??t even open. So reconstruction of the projection booth is necessary.

That's where Honda comes into the picture. The automotive company is shedding light on the rash of closing drive-ins due to the change from film to digital. Honda is giving them a chance to move forward.

The Cherry Bowl is one of about 60 drive-ins nationwide that are part of a contest. The top five vote receiving theaters will win a new digital projection system.

Honda came out to the Cherry Bowl recently to film a commercial for the contest. Clark said it was fun to have the film crew at the theater and hopes the exposure will help them in the contest.

The Cherry Bowl is relying on its wide fan base to get the word out. Otherwise it is in serious danger of letting the screen go black.

Clark said there is a fundraiser account people can donate to. There will also be a benefit night later this month people can attend.

The Cherry Bowl is open seven nights a week and always plays top ten movies. Disneyâ??s â??Planesâ?? debuts Friday night.