Online votes save Newberg’s drive-in

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Brian Francis, owner of the 99W Drive-In, talks to KOIN 6 News behind-the-scenes Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, at a celebration party for the theater's digital projection system award. (Ellen Hansen/KOIN 6 News)

NEWBERG, Ore. (KOIN) — The 99W Drive-In  movie theater in Newberg — one of only four remaining drive-in theaters in the state of Oregon — was set to shut down by the end of this year.

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99W Drive-In Owner Brian Francis in front of the theater’s drive-up screen Sept. 15, 2013. (Ellen Hansen/KOIN 6 News)

And now, the owners have learned they’ll stay in business — as one of five drive-in recipients of a digital projector through Honda’s Project Drive-In. The 99W Drive-In needed a new digital projector; otherwise, when the studios stop distributing 35-millimeter film prints later this year, it would have no way to show the new films.

Winners of the projectors were selected through ProjectDrive-In.com. The website asked voters to decide which theaters would get help “upgrading to digital projection.” That process costs a theater roughly $80,000, according to ProjectDrive-In.com.

As of press time, more than 2 million votes were submitted.

“I was totally surprised today to find out that we were the fifth drive-in to win the last of the first five projectors that were awarded out through Project Drive-In,” 99W Drive-In Owner Brian Francis told KOIN 6 News at a celebration party Sunday night.  The 99W Drive-In is at 3110 Portland Road in Newberg, Ore.

As it turned out, Francis said, “We had the most votes.”

Meanwhile, the Project Drive-In digital projector giveaway appears to have been extended. Four more projectors are now being given out, through voting, to drive-in theaters nationwide. The following Pacific Northwest theaters are included: Motor Vu Drive-In Dallas Ore.; Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In in Port Townsend, Wash.; and the Auto-Vue Drive-In in Colville, Wash. Winners of the four additional projects will be announced Sept. 23.

Francis said his theater plans to keep at least one of its 35-millimeter projectors to continue showing vintage “snack bar films.”

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