Justin West of the Galva Autovue is trying to keep his drive-in theater open.
It is another setback for some QCA drive-in theaters.
The drive-ins in Sterling, Galva, Galesburg, and Letts, Iowa, were all in the running to win a new digital projector through an online contest. The results were announced Monday. None of our local theaters won.
For local drive-in owners we talked to, the results were disappointing.
At the Galva Autovue Drive-In Theater on Monday evening, the projector was off; there were no cars in the lot; the concession stand was empty and there was no popcorn popped and ready to sell.
This makes sense on this day, of course, because the Galva Autovue is not open on weekdays.
But for owner/operator Justin West, the sight of his deserted drive-in is a very real reminder of what's at stake.
"I definitely do not want the screens to go dark permanently," he said.
That is a real possibility down the road if he doesn't upgrade to digital projectors, instead of the 35 millimeter film projectors he has been using. Hollywood studios will soon stop making that kind of film.
"You have got to jump on the digital bandwagon or you are not going to have any product to show on the screen," West said.
But, like so many other drive-in theater owners, West can't afford to make that move just yet. The $140,000 price tag of upgrading to digital projectors for both screens at his theater is prohibitively expensive.
"There are going to be drive-ins that are not going to make it," West pointed out.
He says he will do whatever it takes to make sure his drive-in is not one of them.
He says he's keeping a close eye on the used projector market, and is working to figure out the finances to make that purchase possible.
"I don't want to lose this thing," he said, looking at the giant white screen at the far end of his theater.
"I have spent a lot of time and money on building this. It is part of my dream to keep a drive-in. I enjoy standing back watching everybody enjoy the show," he added.
He says he will continue to provide that entertainment for as long as he possibly can.
"It is something that reaches back to the past and we want to keep them going in the future whether it is with film or, now, digital," he said. "We will do our best to make that jump."
West has already taken steps to prepare his theater to convert to digital, including installing projection booths near the screens that will ultimately house the projectors.
But, for now, the Autovue is still running movies on film. 'Riddick', 'Two Guns', and 'The Purge' will light the screens this Friday and Saturday night.