99W Drive-In wins new digital projector system through Honda competition

With 368 drive-ins remaining in the United States, many facing closure without help switching to digital, and only five projectors available in the Honda Project Drive-In competition, the chances of Highway 99W Drive-In winning were slim. But they were announced Sunday to be the fifth winner of a new projector system, courtesy of GARY ALLEN - A new lease on life - Owners of the 99W Drive-In thanked those people who voted in favor of the business receiving a new digital projector through a contest held by Honda America.

Owner Brian Francis said he had been contacted by a TV news station doing a “routine story on drive-ins” and they had scheduled the interview for Sunday morning. When he arrived it looked like a real interview with camera men and microphones. But halfway through the interview, that changed.

“They blew their cover. They were actually from Honda,” Francis said. “They told me I have won right there in the middle of it and I just went down.”

After standing up and brushing himself off, Francis said the celebration could begin. That night they had a free movie and snacks — paid for by Honda.

When interviewed Monday he said the reality of it had slowly started to sink in.

“The company that’s going to install it, American Cinema Equipment in Portland, is coming to take measurements,” he said. “It’s kind of up to me when (the theater) is ready to come out and install.”

The projector will cost between $70,000 and $80,000, which Honda will cover, but he said there are still improvements and renovations needed to the booth before the projector system can be installed. This may mean removing carpeting and installing an air-conditioning system, among other things.

“I don’t think they cover booth renovation requirements, that’s still $10,000 to $20,000 I still have to pay,” he said. “But it definitely helps.”

He said he’s unsure if the new system will be unveiled this season; viewers might have to wait until next year.

“I didn’t think out in Oregon, where we are supposedly sparely populated, it would happen,” Francis said. “It shows the value the drive-in has to the community.”

Voting ended Sept. 9, but with online contributions Honda extended voting until Sept. 21, meaning four more theaters will receive projectors.

“I hope the others go to those who really need to be saved, who face closing,” Francis said.

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