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Brownsville Drive-In Hopes To Win National Contest

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Down the road from the Route 40 Classic Diner, another American classic is threatened with extinction.

In a nation that once boasted of 4,000 drive-in theaters, some 350 still survive.

"I've worked here for 25 years," says Charlie Perkins, manager of the Brownsville Drive-in. He says things haven't changed much since the theater opened in 1949.

"This is our projector," he says. "This is the wheel the film goes on after it's spliced together."

Perkins points out technology that will soon obsolete. The movie industry is going digital.

"It's going to be on a digital projector," he explains, "where they'll send you a hard drive, or they can use satellite to beam down the movie."

The changeover will cost at least $75,000, which Brownsville, and most other drive-in theaters can't afford. But there's a sliver of hope.

Project Drive-in, a partnership between Honda and drive-in theaters across America, aims to save as many of these theaters as possible. The Project Drive-in website is counting on-line votes for theaters nationwide, at least eight of which in the greater Pittsburgh area.

"The top five winners are receiving the digital projectors," Perkins says. "We're hoping to be one of them."

For a theater that makes more money on its snack bar than its films, a win would keep the screen from going dark.

"We've lost our bowling alley here, and the skating rinks are all gone," Perkins says, of the Brownsville area. "We don't want to see it happen to the drive-in."

To vote for the Brownsville Drive-in, or any of Pittsburgh's drive-in theaters, visit

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