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Vote for the Bethel and Fairlee Drive-In Theaters to Win Digital Projectors

As the movie industry phases out film, the Upper Valley’s two drive-in theaters have a chance to win digital projectors — and you can help get them there by voting online or via text.

The Randall Drive-In Theatre in Bethel and the Fairlee Motel & Drive-in Theater are among roughly 75 drive-in theaters nationwide participating in Honda’s “Project Drive-In” campaign.

Honda will donate digital projectors to the five drive-in theaters that receive the most votes by Sept. 9. (Watch the campaign's promotional YouTube video above.)

■ To vote for the Randall Drive-In Theatre in Bethel, go to projectdrivein.com/vote_66 or text VOTE66 to 444999.

■ To vote for the Fairlee Motel & Drive-in Theater, go to projectdrivein.com/vote_40 or text VOTE40 to 444999.

You may also donate to Project Drive-In’s IndieGogo campaign, where a pool of funds are being collected. That money will go toward purchasing a projector for “the next highest vote getter(s),” according to the site.

Theaters nationwide need to have digital projectors in place soon as movie distributors plan to discontinue distribution of 35 mm rolls. While the change affects all theaters, drive-ins are becoming an increasingly rare breed, with fewer than 370 remaining in the country, according to industry statistics.

Seacoast-area residents Adam Gerhard and Regina Franz bought the Randall Drive-In in April, and launched a fundraising campaign in recent weeks to try to buy a digital projector, earning only a couple hundred dollars so far, Gerhard said.

Long-time drive-in fans and Randall Drive-In patrons, they were hoping they’d have more time to raise money for the projector, they said, because the movie industry has been “unclear what the actual drop-dead date” for film will be, and the “line in the sand” has been moved repeatedly.

But it seems the movie industry is holding fast to its latest target date of January 2014, as some of this fall’s films have already been released as digital-only.

If they don’t win the Honda campaign, Gerhard said, “this could unfortunately be our last few weekends open.”

The same is true for the Fairlee Drive-in, which I wrote about last summer when it began a fundraising campaign for a new projector. Audio correspondent Liz Faiella and former Valley News photography intern Libby March also featured the drive-in in an audio slideshow last month.

The Fairlee Drive-in has raised about $18,900 in donations, spurred on by feature stories in international media outlets, but owner Peter Trapp said his business has been hit by ill-timed bouts of bad weather, such as Memorial Day weekend and July 4, and is “doing about half (the business) of what we did last year.”

If his drive-in were to win, Trapp said, the money raised so far would go toward the installation and upkeep of the new projector, as well as future upgrades.

But while he’s glad that Honda invited him to participate, he’s not counting on the contest to solve all of his problems.

“I think it’s a tiny chance, but you know what, it’s a chance nevertheless, and if it raises the awareness of problems that drive-ins are already facing, (that’s a good thing),” Trapp said. “The odds are pretty slim, but miracles happen. You never know.”

■ To learn more about the Randall Drive-In Theatre in Bethel, visit its website at http://www.randalldrivein.com/ and find its Facebook page here. You can find its donation page at this link. A Kickstarter campaign is forthcoming, Gerhard said.

■ To learn more about the Fairlee Motel & Drive-in Theater, visit its website at http://www.fairleedrivein.com. Its Facebook page is here and its “Save the Fairlee Drive-In” page is here.

Posted to the Upper Valley Dispatch blog Wednesday at 2:50 p.m. Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com.