Hollywood's switch to digital puts pressure on small theaters, drive-ins



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Posted on July 6, 2012 at 11:00 PM

GRANBURY - The familiar sound and thick aroma of popcorn fills the concession stand at the Brazos Drive-in Theatre.

Nearby in the projector room, Brenda Stewart repeats the motions she's come to know well over the course of more than 10 years.

"I think I can do this in my sleep at times," she said, as she prepared the night's movie premiere, The Amazing Spider-Man.

It rests on hundreds of feet of 35 millimeter film. It will soon be a thing of the past as movie companies release fewer and fewer features on film, instead it will be all digital.

And that's where the challenge comes in.

Theaters and drive-ins, like the Brazos Drive-in, will have to convert their projectors from film to digital and that can cost upwards of $50,000.

"I believe some theaters won't be able to keep up with the costs and [we] will see them close," Stewart said.

They're planning to make the switch, but with this being a seasonal business, it wont be easy.

"It's going to be very expensive for any theater to go [digital,]" Stewart said.

Only a few hundred drive-ins are left across the country.

As customers fill a dusty parking lot in Granbury, the owner vows to keep an old favorite open.

"Its very personal to us," Stewart said. "It's out little piece of history that we want to keep alive. And we will continue to do so."

The Brazos Drive-in has been open for 60 years. Stewart said the popcorn popper is some 50 years old. It took a year to get it repaired back in the mid-2000's.

Today, it keeps the kids quite entertained. She hopes it will continue for years to come.

E-mail mmoore@wfaa.com