Northfield Drive-in is going digital


NORTHFIELD, Mass. -- A local piece of Americana will keep up with the times and open for customers for the 66th consecutive year this spring.

The Northfield Drive-in will soon be in possession of a digital projector that can be used to download and play movies in an age that has phased out film. There were concerns the drive-in theater would have to shut down due to the expense of a digital projector, but owner Mitchell Shakour said he dipped into his retirement fund after an online fundraising effort failed and the theater will be up and running in 2014. Shakour told the Reformer the Barco digital projector should arrive sometime soon. He said it was manufactured in Belgium and purchased from an Oregon-based company that sells and services the machines.

"Indoor theaters are pieces of cake. But drive-ins, by their nature, are problematic because they're exposed to the elements and stuff," he said.

Shakour told the Reformer the projector cost $85,000 and $30,000 had to be spent on builders to retrofit the projection booth. He said electrical work will cost another $50,000 and he thinks he might need to purchase a generator. The projection booth must be kept above freezing or the digital projector will not function, he said.

"It will be about $200,000 when all is said and done," Shakour said, adding that Internet must also be installed in the booth.

The Northfield Drive-in closed for the season around its usual time in 2013, and Shakour quickly began a Kickstarter account to try to raise the money to save the business. Kickstarter is an online platform anyone can use to raise money for their creative endeavors. Donations can come from people around the world and support a variety of projects. But if the target figure is not reached, no one who pledged is charged any money and the beneficiary gets nothing. Shakour and his family set a goal of $40,000 and received about $26,000. He said the campaign, nevertheless, served as a morale booster, as more than 400 people contributed money -- and three individuals donated $1,000.

The theater opened in 1948 and was purchased by Shakour's family in 1968. Shakour told the Reformer he has worked at the business, which straddles the New Hampshire/Massachusetts state line, for every summer weekend for as long as he can remember.

He said he wants to open as soon as possible, which will likely be May. He said April is out of the question at this point.

"It's a little scary because it's like the unknown. I'll feel better once we get a few nights under our belt," he said. "I wish (using a digital projector) was as easy as a DVD. That's what people think, but it's really difficult."

Domenic Poli can be reached at, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.


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