By The Magpie Whisperer
Portland’s Crystal Cinema volunteers are raising funds to purchase a digital projector so the old theatre can re-open its doors to movie-goers. But what might be worth considering is a cinema venture of a different kind, one that would cater to the greater Lithgow area and attract visitors. Right across America drive-in movies are making a comeback – bigtime. In Australia drive-in cinemas were all but erased from the landscape decades ago, but today there are 17 drive-in theatres operating successfully across the country. Most, however, will need to convert to digital if they want a viable future.
Digital cinema has revolutionised the US drive-in movie industry by providing a quantum leap forward in picture quality. Americans now enjoy the drive-in experience with a crystal-clear picture on a huge screen that dwarfs those at indoor cinemas. Advanced technology also enables audio to be beamed directly into your car through an FM signal, so you can listen to the movie on your multi-speaker car stereo system, or MP3 player.
People don’t want to stay home on the couch all the time, but there’s no modern Cineplex in Lithgow and the extra travel makes it an expensive family outing. Being outdoors, affordable and fun, the drive-in allows parents to enjoy not having their kids disturbing other patrons and pets can tag along, too. Gates open early so patrons can have picnic dinners and socialise before the movie starts, and there is something romantically old-fashioned about sitting in your car under the stars, enjoying a film projected onto a large open-air screen.
With a widespread population, a strong car culture and several possible sites, the Lithgow region would seem an enticing location for such a venture. So what would it take? Along with acquiring a suitable site, basic infrastructure and personnel, there are the costs of constructing a projection suite, large screen and ancillary facilities, plus the purchase of a digital projector and support equipment. Oh,..and also a cashed-up entrepreneur with the moxy to make it happen! Just a ‘field of dreams’? Possibly. But then nothing happens unless we first dream.