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Our view: Help save a local staple

The McHenry Outdoor Theater is a local gem located on North Chapel Hill Road, about a half-mile west of the Fox River and north of Route 120.

One of only a handful of drive-in movie theaters left in Illinois, it’s a great place to take the family on warm summer nights or cooler fall evenings. For parents, there’s a bit of nostalgia, a reminder of days long since past, when times seemed simpler. For kids, it’s the same fun it always has been. Playing in the big field before the first movie begins. Eating popcorn and other snacks. Staying up late with the parents, watching a good movie or two on a giant screen.

As technology advancements have dramatically increased entertainment options for kids and adults alike, drive-in movie theaters, sadly, are becoming scarcer across the country.

That’s why the McHenry Outdoor Theater is such a great local attraction. It, too, has had its rough times in recent years, with declining revenue, increased costs, ownership changes. To date, thankfully, it has survived.

To continue to be a local attraction, the theater must make some important but expensive upgrades to its equipment. It must convert from 35 mm film to a full digital format. That means purchasing and installing new projection equipment, computers and a sound system.

Traditional 35 mm film is being phased out by the movie industry. Without the upgrade, in a few years, there might not be any films that the McHenry Outdoor Theater is capable of playing. The digital equipment and other upgrades necessary to run it will cost about $110,000. To pay for it, theater owner Scott Dehn has started a campaign on the fundraising website Kickstarter. His goal is to raise $130,000, with anything over the $110,000 to go to other general theater upgrades.

The first fundraising event will be Oct. 5 and 6, when attendees will name their own admission price, all of which will go to the campaign. The theater is showing a double feature of “Back to the Future” and “Jaws,” starting around dusk both nights. Area band Rough Night Out will perform before the movies start Saturday night.

If you’ve ever been to the drive-in and had a good time, consider attending the Oct. 5 or 6 event or visit kickstarter.com after Oct. 5.

Let’s help keep this local staple open.

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