In American life, progress is generally defined as eliminating tradition by way of the excuse of advancing technology, changing times or inevitable cultural evolution, when what is actually is going on is that a few people have formulated a scheme to make a quick buck off of everyone else. Movie palaces are exchanged for multiplexes for no reason except that Hollywood might be held more accountable for upgrading its product if irate theater owners equipped with single screens were stuck with a multi-week contract for a lemon instead of being able to provide a more efficient dumping ground for the studio’s dross of the week, heartily overlooked by the multiple screen booking of their latest 3-D eyesore which is equally abysmal, but for some unfathomable reason (saturation advertising, an incredibly taste-free audience) is packing in the drones in huge numbers. The encouragement toward the studios to further fill their coffers with additional incomes from VHS and then DVD sales/rentals displayed short-term thinking on their part as it effectively eliminated the lucrative secondary and repertory markets, plus driving a further nail in the already weighty coffin which was encasing the drive-in theater industry.
Now, how often does the opportunity arise to beat back the pudgy greedy fingers of The Man and help save one of America’s treasured pop culture landmarks- the drive-in movie theater -with a simple purchase of a pretty nifty tee shirt? Now, you can be a major part of history, or at least a very tiny of a campaign that most of the free world is unaware of but is worthwhile nonetheless: no you’re not going to save a starving village or cure a disease, but neither is anyone else. (Where have those untold billions in charity disappeared to anyway?) Here is something small but tangible, the preservation of something which once its gone is gone forever, just waiting for that future time when everyone will then be complaining, “whatever happened to…?” (Answer: Steve Jobs clones convinced everyone that watching a widescreen epic on a smart phone has the same visceral kick as sitting in front of an eighty foot screen.)
The current digitalization of every movie theater in America (and not so coincidentally, the last latest scheme by Hollywood to penny pinch when it comes to distributing their extravagantly overproduced, indefensibly over-budgeted product by placing the burden on the exhibitors) has closed even more of the remaining independent theater venues, creating an increased crisis situation in the already barely tolerable lack of diversity away from the imposed mindless offerings of the local franchise multiplex. Theaters which offer alternative, independent and art house fare, secondary runs or repertory are becoming as scarce as watchable movies on Ryan Reynolds’ résumé, and the situation is even more dire for that most peculiarly American of cinematic venues: the drive-in theater, whose inherent limitation of operational (and thus revenue generating) opportunity is limited to the caprices of weather, seasonality and the daily appearance of something called sunlight. (Saturday matinees are few and for some reason unsatisfying.)
With this in mind, the Fairlee Drive-In, conveniently located in Fairlee, Vermont (where else?), finds itself in a familiar economic bind- that pesky digital conversion which is ravaging the independent theater owner with a virtual act of extortion: a put up or shut up proposition that has every projection booth at the mercy of a seventy seven thousand dollar ransom demand or else face cinematic starvation with the cessation of films on celluloid. (It warms the heart to think that tens of millions are handed over to studios so that audiences may, in essence, watch a DVD. Thanks Hollywood!)
Fortunately, the good folks who run the Fairlee Drive-In (which is actually attached to a motel in which guests may open their windows and watch the movies from the comfort of their beds…a dream come true for especially lazy cinephiles), instead of surrendering to the improvident winds of crushing change, have decided to engage a fighting stance. Here’s the deal: The Fairlee Motel & Drive-In is selling an attractively designed tee shirt, the proceeds of which will pay for the needed digital projector to keep the drive-in open and functioning for generations to come. These shirts (the logo illustrated on this post) are colorful, durable and proudly show off that you’re not a one-note wonder in the land of the Good Samaritan when you wear it during your next 10K charity walk. The cost is a mere $25 if delivered by mail, or $20 if you happen to be in the area of Fairlee, Vermont and wish to stop by the motel and say “howdy, I love a good drive-in and want to help” (or something like that, make up your own dialogue- do I have to do all of the thinking around here?). Those interested in Montana or Vancouver may wish to order online as the cost of gas to Vermont might prohibit a practical intent to contribute to the cause.
The project is ongoing as we speak, and more details are available at the drive-in website at : http://www.fairleedrivein.com
NOTE: (Chandler Swain Reviews is in no way affiliated with the aforementioned motel or drive-in. We’re just just trying to do a good deed to offset that assured express train to Hell- oh wait, we’ve already sat through “The Wiz” so we’ve already been to Hell and back. [Sorry, Audie.] ).