What if I told you that you could save a business from going under, save local jobs and save a piece of our culture in the time it takes you to read this column?
Like most drive-in theaters across the country, the Saco Drive-In might have to close its doors after this season unless it converts from film to digital technology. The movie industry has basically told drive-ins that this is the last year they will distribute film reels and move entirely to digital distribution before next year. This is clearly in an effort to save millions of dollars on their part, but without assistance, most theaters cannot make the switch and will have to close their doors. The cost for digital conversion is about $75,000. Not many people, let alone business owners, have that kind of cash lying around.
Back in December, owner Ry Russell approached me with this dilemma and ever since we’ve brainstormed ideas for how to save this place. We’ve raised cash through online donations, sold T-shirts and bracelets, held fundraisers, including a massive yard sale, and now we need to ask for votes.
Honda Motor Co. has launched a national contest where drive-ins compete to receive a digital projector. The top five vote-getting theaters will receive one. Voting takes place online through its Project Drive-In website as well as via text. People can vote once per day, every day through Monday, Sept. 9. Honda even came out and filmed part of its official commercial here in Saco over the summer with interviews from myself, Ry Russell and Camille Smalley of Saco Museum.
From an economic perspective, Saco can’t afford to lose another local job creator. The Saco Drive-In employs many high school and college students. Much like Funtown, the drive-in is an attraction that helps draw tourists to our community that in turn, drives up needed revenues to pay for essential services. If we are serious about that sign out by the highway that says “Open for business,” then we have to, as a state, support our small businesses in a hands-on way.
The drive-in is a quintessential piece of Saco’s rich dynamic culture and brings out the spirit of this community that makes it so special. I have fond memories as a kid of going to the Saco Drive-In with my family. Now I’m proud to represent the district that includes it as a state representative. It’s really all about doing something with the whole family together; pulling up the car, opening the back, lying on blankets or lawn chairs and experiencing great cinemagic fanfare. I hope it’s around for many generations to come, as it represents a bridge to an earlier time in our community’s history. The Saco Drive-In was built in 1939 and has been in business for 74 seasons. It is the second-oldest, stilloperational drive-in in the entire country. Together, with your help, we can save this place.
Go online to thesacodrivein.com to learn more and vote everyday or text VOTE7 to 444999.
Justin Chenette is the state representative for Saco. Follow him online at Facebook.com/JustinForSaco, Twitter.com/JustinChenette, & www.justinchenette.com.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco