Click your mouse to help local drive-in theater

Shhh ... the movie is starting! (Clark 54 Drive-In outside Summer Hill, Ill.)

UPDATED: September 21 at 9:05 a.m.

The Clark 54 Drive-In remains in the running to win an expensive digital upgrade that's needed to keep the Summer Hill theater open.

Recently, Honda's Project Drive-In awarded five theaters across the country money to pay for the upgrades. Unfortunately, the Clark 54 Drive-In did not make the cut.

However, there's good news.

Honda has decided to award four more upgrades and extend the voting to Sept. 21.

Now, the Pike County Chamber of Commerce is asking that everyone step up their game and vote daily for the Clark 54 online or by text message.

Click here to vote for the Clark 54 Drive-In. You can vote online and via text once a day until the end of the day Saturday, Sept. 21.

The winning drive-ins will be announced on the website at 8 a.m. Monday, September 23.


Original story:

"In the summer, you'll see whole families camped out here, mattresses in the back of pickup trucks, lawn chairs everywhere," Kaye Ifner, with the Pike County Chamber of Commerce said.

When day turns to night on the front lawn of the Clark 54 Drive-In theater, hundreds of families turn to the big screen.

"This is modern entertainment for rural areas like Pike County. Where else can you take a family for 5 dollars a person to a movie?" Ifner said.

The popular drive-in in Summer Hill, Illinois has seen its own dramas, on and off screen. But in the coming months, a new drama could cause the lights to go out for good.

The movie industry's transition to digital-only productions means the country's 368 drive-ins will have to convert to the new technology or close their gates.

"The move to digital is an incredible financial cost," Ifner said.

Drive-in owners will have to fork out close to $75,000 to make the switch. A hefty price to pay for a seasonable business.

There is hope for some financial aid. Honda has launched a nationwide campaign called Project Drive-In to help raise money to pay for five drive-in theaters to switch to digital. Honda unveiled a new website dedicated to the campaign, and is letting people vote on which drive-ins should receive assistance, from now through September 9.

Pike County resident Jeff Bolomey says he holds more than 50 years of memories at the Clark 54 Drive-In.

""If that theatre were to close again, I would feel like another small part of me had died. You may give up a little bit of sound quality that you'd get at a movie theater but it's the experience of being outside and relaxed and they encourage people to bring lawn chairs and sit outside and enjoy yourself," Bolomey said.

As an adult, he still enjoys the benefits it brings to his family and the community.

"Any business helps other businesses, but on an emotional level, deep inside me, it's something I want to see stay there, not only for myself but also for the generations coming up after me," Bolomey said.

"It's entertainment you can't find anywhere else and we don't want to see that go," Ifner said.

Owner Mike Glass says he'll make the decision to stay open or close the outdoor theater next spring. He says it's not only the upfront cost of the digital technology he's concerned about, but also the ongoing costs to keep it going.

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