Through 80 summers, drive-in theaters have managed to remain a part of the American fabric, surviving technological advances and changing tastes that put thousands out of business. Now the industry says a good chunk of the 350 or so left could be forced to turn out the lights because they can't afford to adapt to the digital age.
Movie studios are phasing out 35 mm film prints, and the switch to an eventually all-digital distribution system is pushing the outdoor theaters to make the expensive change to digital projectors.
The $70,000-plus investment required per screen is significant, especially for what is in most places a summertime business kept alive by mom-and-pop operators. Paying for the switch would suck up most owners' profits for years to come.
Reporting by Mitch Stacy, Associated Press.