Guest Post by Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco): Saving Saco’s Culture
(Many thanks to Rep. Justin Chenette for informing us about this important effort to save a vital part of not just his community’s economy but a Maine and American icon. ~AP)
Like most drive-in theaters across the country, the Saco Drive-In might have to close it’s doors after this season unless they convert from film to digital technology. The movie industry has basically told drive-ins that this is the last year they will be distributing film reels and moving entirely to digital distribution before next year. This is clearly in an effort to save millions of dollars on their part, but without assistance most theaters cannot make the switch and will have to close their doors. The cost for digital conversion aka the purchase of a digital projector is around $75,000. Not many people let alone business owners have that kind of cash lying around.
Back in December, owner Ry Russell, approached me with this dilemma and ever since we’ve been brainstorming ideas for how to save this place. We’ve raised cash through online donations, sold t-shirts and bracelets, held fundraisers including a massive yard sale, and now we need to ask for votes.
“A vote for the Saco Drive-In is as American as apple pie,” says owner Ry Russell, who hopes to use social media to mobilize support. “We have one of the largest followings on Facebook for drive-ins in the country.”
The Honda Motor Company has launched a national contest where drive-ins compete to receive a digital projector. The top 5 vote-getting theaters will receive one. Voting is taking place online through their Project Drive-In website as well as via text. People can vote once per day, every day through Sept. 9th. Honda even came out and filmed part of their official informational commercial here in Saco over the summer with interviews from myself, Ry Russell, and Camille Smalley of the Saco Museum.
From an economic perspective, Saco can’t afford to lose another local job creator. The Saco Drive-In employs many high school and college students. Much like Funtown, the drive-in is an attraction that helps draw tourists to our community which in turn drives up needed revenues to pay for essential services. If we are serious about that sign out by the highway that says open for business, then we have to, as a state, support our small businesses in a hands-on way.
The drive-in is a quintessential piece to Saco’s rich dynamic culture and brings out the spirit of this community that makes it so special. I have fond memories as a kid of going to the Saco Drive-In with my family. Now I’m proud to represent the district that includes it as a State Representative. It’s really all about doing something with the whole family together; pulling up the car, opening the back, lying on blankets or lawn chairs and experiencing great cinemagic fanfare. I hope it’s around for many generations to come as it represents a bridge to an earlier time in our community’s history. The Saco Drive-In was built in 1939 and has been in business for 74 seasons. It is the second oldest still-operational drive-in in the entire country. Together, with your help, we can save this place.
Go online to thesacodrivein.com to learn more and vote everyday or text VOTE7 to 444999.
Justin Chenette is the state representative for Saco. Follow him online at Facebook.com/JustinForSaco, Twitter.com/JustinChenette, & http://www.justinchenette.com.
History of the Saco Drive-In:
A Saco, Maine attraction since 1939, the Saco Drive-In (originally the Motor-In Theatre) celebrates its 74th season this year. Since its inception, the Saco Drive-In has been a local, family owned business, originally operated by Italian immigrant Eugene V. Boragine. In 1909, Boragine immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island, and followed his American Dream from New York to Saco and started Maine’s first open air theatre on the “Avenue of America” known as Route 1. America’s second oldest still-operational drive-in entertains sold out crowds of film fans from May through October, a vote for the Saco Drive-In is as American as apple pie!