Graham Drive-In wins national contest to stay open

Posted Friday, Sep. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Graham Drive-In, which first opened in 1948, won’t be going dark anytime soon.

With the help of a humorous YouTube video and a spirited social media presence, the small-town drive-in 90 miles west of Fort Worth is one of five drive-ins across the U.S. to win a digital projector in a contest sponsored by Honda dubbed Project Drive-In,

Without the new projector, Graham’s outdoor movie theater, like many others across the U.S., faced the risk of closing. Hollywood distributors are shifting away from film to digitial. Many mom-and-pop drive-ins across the U.S. face the risk of closing because that can’t afford the conversion costs which can reach close to $100,000.

“We’re so excited,” said the Graham’s owner, Pam Scott. “We were believing. We were keeping our fingers and toes crossed because we knew we were up against big competition. We knew the town was behind us but it was going to take more than that to win.”

The Graham’s video that jokingly claimed zombies once roamed the grounds of the drive-in helped generate international attention and brought more votes to the contest. The small-town drive-in felt it must do something to stand out against the competition.

“It was either going to be great or just tank horribly. It’s very validating,” said Erin Hawkins who came up with the idea along with her husband, J. Hawkins. The couple manage the outdoor theater.

To celebrate, the Graham Drive-in held a tailgate party Friday, followed by The Smurfs 2 but they were up against another Texas staple — Friday night football.

“We’ll have a free showing as a celebration for anyone who isn’t going to the football game,” Scott said.

Texas has 15 drive-ins with a total of 26 screens, including Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In, which opened earlier this spring just north of downtown. The Coyote uses digital projectors. About 145 drive-ins out of 357 across the U.S. have converted to digital, including the six-screen Galaxy Drive-In near Ennis.

But the Brazos Drive-In in Granbury isn’t one of them.

Unless it wins one of the remaining two digital projectors to be announced this weekend, the Brazos’s future will remain in limbo.

“I’m very happy for Graham,” said the Brazos owner, Jennifer Miller. “They were very creative. I’m happy one gets to stay open.”

The Brazos, which is known for its iconic wooden tower, opened since 1952 but the cost to convert to digital is more than Miller can afford.

For now, the Brazos remains open — as long as the drive-in can find movies on film to keep showing.

“Whatever happens, I’m OK with it,” Miller said.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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