NEWVILLE — The Cumberland Drive-In has been using the same projector since its opening in 1952. That is all about to change today.
“Thursday, about 10 minutes after nine, we will go all-digital,” said Jay Mowery, co-owner of the drive-in theater.
Mowery said the theater at 715 Centerville Road had expected for a while to change to digital as the movie industry shifted away from 35 mm film. This year, however, there were concerns that major motions pictures, such as “Transformers 4: Age of Extinction” which opens with special screenings late tonight, would not be released in that format.
“After 62 years, one week short of 62 years, it’s a transition in the industry as a whole,” Mowery said.
Movies typically cost up to $5,000 for studios to print to film, an expense they do not have when distributing to digital systems.
Mowery said the theater also had trouble getting second features for the theater.
The big screen adaptation of the book “Heaven Is for Real” and other religious movies released this year which Mowery thought would have played well with his customers were distributed strictly in digital format, leaving Cumberland Drive-In on the cutting room floor.
“‘Transformers’ is a great film to make the transition,” Mowery said, explaining that the movie comes to life on the more than 5,400-square-foot screen. “You don’t get that in the indoor theaters.” The transition will not take away from the nostalgia of watching a movie in the open air, and should enhance the experience.
“For the few of us that had access to the projection room, it probably bothers us the most,” Mowery said about the bittersweet feeling of moving away from 35 mm film. “For the movie-goer it’s going to be just as nostalgic. You get to sit outside and enjoy a movie. Frankly, it should be a better experience.”
He said the digital image is sharper and provides more color depth.
“We got 62 years out of the last projector. I’m hoping to get six out of this one,” Mowery joked about the industry changing so rapidly.
The upgrade gives the theater more flexibility, Mowery said, including to ability to live-stream events, play Blu-ray discs. He even hinted at a possible John Wayne film festival at the end of the season thanks to the new equipment.
Movie-goers saw a $1 increase at the beginning of the season, but Mowery said there will be no more price hikes to cover the cost of the new equipment.
All of the equipment is installed and tested. Mowery said the theater is just waiting on a few details and security codes from the movie studios before the first showing.
Gates open at 7 p.m. today for a special Thursday showing for the first double feature using the new equipment. “Transformers 4: Age of Extinction” begins around 9:10 p.m. with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” following immediately after.