Kingston Family Funworld

As I was perusing Facebook this morning, I can across a shared article about the local drive in theatre. The headline was not suprising, and it most likely pretty common for the drive-in theatre industry: Support Kingston Family Funworld. You know exactly what's happening: the business is closing, and this is some last ditch effort to rally the community to save the historic (?) site.

Well, upon further reading I discover the issue is a bit more intriguing. Apparently Hollywood is only sending out digital copies of their movies now instead of 35mm prints. This is news to me. I know the movie industry has gone digital, but I didn't realize how prolific it was. I can tell when I'm watching a digital projection - or so I thought. Most of the screens I go to are digital, and it appears that every single one is now. I just assumed that they had the old 35mm projectors sitting beside the new ones; that may not be the case.

The Funworld site says that all film is being (or going to be) destroyed, and they are not going to distribute 35mm prints anymore. This seems pretty drastic and quite sad - an end of an era. There are debates among filmmakers on the benefit and disadvantages of filming digitally, but I haven't seen too much on the distribution. The drive in indicates that the cost of ONE of these digital projectors (they have three screens) is more than the cost of all three 35mm projectors they've had for the past 23 years (including maintenance). Your major theatre chains don't have an issue with the cost as they are large corporations and can easily get the money (or use the massive concession profits) to fund the new technology.

So the Funworld turns to the community to raise money: they've been turned down by government grants because the local market is too big - which leads us to believe that the business is doing well, but they need a loan to make this happen. I'm sure they can set that up when the time comes, but for now they are raising awareness - and money - through social media and the community. It's probably the first time I've shared an article through Facebook, although I feel a bit bad.

I feel bad because it's probably been 15 years since I've been to the drive-in. Let me recount the memories.

Going to the drive-in with my parents when I was younger was always a great experience. That was back in the day of parking beside a post that had a speaker on it. You would mount the speaker on an open window of your vehicle. Later on, they would remove the posts and replace the system with FM transmission: simply tune in and listen with your car's audio system.

My parents were fiends at the drive in. They would often go twice a week and were getting many "regular" perks, such as free shows, popcorn and snacks. The drive-in is always two shows for the price of one, really, so they were taking in four movies a week, often seeing the same one multiple times. I would tag along sometimes, and would actually take in some of my first R-rated films this way as I "snuck" in while sitting in the back seat. I remember it clearly: Face/Off and Event Horizon.

Sometimes the car battery would die and they needed a boost: I would be left home alone as my sister drove out to get them going again. I can just imagine a dozen or so cars at the end of every night in the same predicament: running the battery out is probably one of my biggest fears and I can't imagine it holding up to running the radio for four hours straight and not having problems. Then again, cars have come a long way, right?

I went on a date to the drive-in once, during high school - or perhaps more of a double date, I'm not sure. The first movie was typical date fair: As Good as it Gets. The second film was Wild Things, which just seemed ridiculous to pair up with the other, but such as the drive-in way. We held hands starting halfway through the first film and throughout most of the second. We watched the stars trace paths across the sky and called it a night without so much as a kiss. It was over a few short days later of course, but I was happy to check off having a date at the drive in, after getting my license to drive.

I'm not sure I ever went back to the drive in after that. In 1999 I moved away to a land of no drive-ins (which could mean anywhere, really). I've since come back, but haven't made the trek yet. It's difficult for the car to compete against the modern, large multiplexes we have today. It's generally a better experience, but not nearly as romantic, or nostalgic. And nostalgia may be the only reason to take a move in at the drive-in these days. That, and to support a local business. It's something that I would want my kids to go experience, simply because I have fond memories of it from my childhood. I know I'll be donating some money, and I hope they reach their goal.

Kingston Family Funworld: Go Dark or Go Digital

Tags: Movies