By CLINT FOSTER
Does it get much more American than a visit to the drive-in movie theater?
Ripe with nostalgia, thoughts of a drive-in movie theater spawn images of classic cars, young love and fun times with family and friends. It’s where Danny and Sandy went on a pivotal date in “Grease.” Millions thrilled to the likes of James Dean and Natalie Wood in “Rebel Without a Cause,” Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in “Beach Blanket Bingo” and Steve McQueen in “The Blob.”
And as far as “B” movies go, there must be an unwritten law that the only proper place to watch a film from the mind of writer, director Ed Wood is in the comfort of your car at a rural drive-in theater.
The Graham Drive In, the third-oldest drive in Texas, has been showing these and other more contemporary films to patrons from all over North Texas and beyond since 1948.
But in this age of ever-developing digital technology, now more than ever, the magnificent drive-in movie theater is threatened with extinction.
After this year, 35 millimeter film – still used by drive ins all over the nation – will no longer be available in favor of a switch to exclusively digital movies. In order to continue operations, theaters like Graham’s must acquire a digital projection system, or go the way of the dinosaurs. Such an upgrade could cost upwards of $100,000 – a steep price to pay for a mom-and-pop operation only open about 6 months a year.
However, just as there was for the Rebel Alliance in “Star Wars,” there is still hope for this beloved fixture of Graham culture.
Co-managers of the Graham Drive In Erin and J. Hawkins said the theater was approached by Honda and entered into the company’s contest. Honda plans to donate five new projectors to five lucky drive ins across the county that garner the most votes from the public. Voting runs through Sept. 9 and people can vote at projectdrivein.com or by texting “vote30” to 444-999. The contest allows one vote per device per day. Graham’s theater is among 60 other drive ins entered in the contest, so the Hawkinses said it is imperative that people vote as often as possible – in other words, daily.