NORTHFIELD, Mass. -- All drive-in theaters are being forced to convert to digital projection as the film industry has decided to no longer produce 35 mm film prints of box office movies after this year. But this obvious sign of the times comes with a gigantic price tag.
Mitchell Shakour, owner of the Northfield Drive-In, said $150,000 is needed for the digital projectors and has started a Kickstarter campaign to lead its fundraising efforts. The theater has been in his family since 1967, and he is determined to keep it open.
Kickstarter is an online platform anyone can use to raise money for their creative endeavors. Donations come from people around the world and support a variety of projects. Shakour said he said he and his family set a goal to generate $40,000 before the fundraising period ends on Tuesday, Nov. 12. But if that target figure is not reached, no one who pledged will be charged any money and the Northfield Drive-In will get nothing.
As of early Friday afternoon, $9,237 in donations had been registered from 156 backers. Shakour said money has come in from Burlington, Holyoke, Mass., Florida and even Australia.
"I can't describe (the generosity)," he said. "It's been encouraging at this point. The more money I make here, the less I pull out of retirement."
Shakour said his family (son Gabriel, daughter Lily Marie and wife Carla Folkert) debated for months whether to appeal to the public and how to properly do it. He said he didn't want to seem a charity case and was relieved when he found out about Kickstarter and its format. The family recorded a two-and-a-half-minute video featuring the drive-in's loyal customers and a brief history of the drive-in as a way to appeal to possible donors. The video can be seen at saveourdrivein.com or on the theater's Kickstarter account.
"For over 65 years, the Northfield Drive-In has remained a piece of living history, preserving the ability to enjoy movies under the stars," the video says. "Right now, they are facing the biggest threat to their existence there has ever been."
But donations don't come without reward. Different amounts will earn people prizes such as a "perpetual popcorn bucket" that can be filled throughout the season or the opportunity to have their business logo displayed on the screen before a showing.
The drive-in, with a screen that is split by the New Hampshire-Massachusetts stateline, stands as a symbol of nostalgic Americana and even had cameo in a major motion picture. Its familiar grass lot and speakers can be seen in "Cider House Rules," featuring Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron.
"People love the drive-in," Shakour said. "Even if we don't succeed and we don't reach our goal, I'll feel like it was a success."
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.