PLYMOUTH — After 60 summers of serving up popcorn, mosquito bites and blockbuster flicks, Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre in Plymouth may be calling it quits.
Owner David Kinney announced on the theater’s website recently that the drive-in needs to go digital or it will close.
“It is projected that at the end of 2013, the 35 mm film which we use to show our movies will no longer exist,” wrote Kinney on the site. “To stay in business means to convert to digital projectors at the cost of roughly $75,000 per screen. The total cost conversion for Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre to stay in business in its present state will be about $300,000.”
Kinney said Friday, June 21, that the campaign has raised about $10,000 so far this season.
“We still have a ways to go,” he said.
To raise the money, Kinney has set up a donation box at the restaurant in the drive-in. He’s also selling T-shirts and magnetic bumper stickers at the restaurant. A silent auction for movie memorabilia is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the nearby Tri-Way Family Golf Center clubhouse. Advertising space on the fence outside the drive-in is for sale, and Kinney is planning bake sales and car washes for later in the summer. Sales of season passes to the drive-in will also go toward the digital upgrade.
“I just hope and pray we can make this conversion,” Kinney said. “I would hate to see (the theater) fall by the wayside, especially after all the work I’ve put into it.”
Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre opened in 1953. Members of the public submitted ideas for the theater’s name, and “Tri-Way” was selected because of the theater’s location near U.S. highways 31, 30 and 6.
The theater has been in Kinney’s family since it was built. Different people leased the theater over the years, but Kinney took over operations in 1985. He purchased the theater in 1998.
When Kinney took over in 1985, the drive-in had just one screen. Now it has four — the fourth screen was added in 2007.
Kinney said on a typical Friday night in the summer, between 300 and 400 people drive up for a movie.
“(The drive-in) is a family tradition in this area,” Kinney said, adding that he’s heard many stories from moviegoers who went to the drive-in when they were kids and are now bringing their own kids.
The theater’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people hoping the drive-in stays open.
Kinney also owns Plymouth’s indoor movie theater, Showland Cinemas. He said he finished converting Showland to show digital film in 2012.
Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre is at 4400 N. Michigan Road in Plymouth. It’s open every night during the summer.