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Our View: Votes save the drive-in

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Those wanting to watch a movie these days usually don’t have to go far: Press a button on your TV remote, and, voilà!, the movie of your choice pops up on the screen.

Individual convenience often overtakes the novelty of heading out to the theater, getting popcorn and taking in a show.

Which is why we are grateful to Honda for realizing the importance of preserving aspects of the Americana we so often long for.

On Saturday morning, Scott Dehn, owner of the McHenry Outdoor Theater, found out from Honda that the automobile company was going to give the theater the digital projector it so desperately needs.

Because of the movie industry’s ongoing switch from 35 mm film to digital – a format cheaper for studios and distributors – theaters across the country are having to move fast to install digital projectors. Otherwise, their owners are left choosing from a dwindling selection of movies produced on the old format.

It’s a change that has hit smaller, independent theaters hardest, and threatened many home-grown drive-ins such as the McHenry Outdoor.

Dehn has spent the past year attempting to raise the $130,000 needed for the projector and accompanying maintenance. All to no avail. He decided to request votes instead of money, and asked patrons and local residents to vote for McHenry Outdoor in the Project Drive-In contest, Honda’s attempt to help preserve what they call an “iconic part of American car culture.”

It worked. We commend those who turned out en masse to vote in the contest, helping McHenry Outdoor become one of the contest’s five winners. And we thank Honda for helping a local small-business owner over what could have been a insurmountable bump in the road.

“They came together to support something they love,” Dehn said of those who voted for the theater. “I couldn’t be more proud to say I’m from McHenry.”

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