Rescue the Iconic Harvest Moon Drive In Theatre from closing
Rescue the Iconic Harvest Moon Drive In Theatre from closing
The End of 35MM film could mean the end of a historic central IL drive in. You can save this slice of Americana!
The End of 35MM film could mean the end of a historic central IL drive in. You can save this slice of Americana! Read more
Will The Harvest Moon Twin Drive In convert to digital or close forever?
Hello! My name is Benjamin Harroun. Along with my family, my father Michael and brother William, we have run the Harvest Moon Twin Drive In Theatre in Gibson City IL since 1989.
The end of film as we know it is here. For the past few years, Film Studios have begun a process of converting their profitable movie houses to Digital to avoid film production and distribution costs. No one knew an exact date, but that date has arrived: December 2012. Very soon, every movie theater in the country, including the hundreds of remaining drive in's, will either have converted their film projection systems to the new digital projectors or they will be out of business with no movies to show. The news was released today, September 11th 2012: Fuji Film, one of the last and largest maker of 35mm film will halt all production and close it's facilities by December 31st 2012.
Why don't you just play older movies? This isn't an option for us, new requirements won't allow 35mm theatres to play older content 'out of release' and new movies are only going to be released in digital. The message is loud and clear as voiced by John Fithian of NATO: "Go digital or go out of business"
This mandatory requirement means the 58-year old Harvest Moon Twin Drive In Theatre must upgrade its projection and sound equipment for the minimal cost of $120,000. This is for USED equipment and doesn't cover the cost of installation and the special designs required for a Drive In theatre. The multiplexes and large chains have all received VPF's(basically rebates for converting over early) to help defray their costs. We are not! We don't meet the qualifications to receive them, unfortunately no drive in theatre does...
We love this business! It's not about profits, it's about community and sharing a place where friends, family, and kids can enjoy a good time making lasting memories. We plan to stay open in 2013, but we need your help to do it. With less than 350 Drive In theatres still in existence, and literally HUNDREDS scheduled to close at the end of 2012, we need to preserve this truly american innovation: The Drive In Movie Theatre.
Digital is the future and the future is here...
This is the most dramatic change in the movie industry since the 'talkies' made their debut in the 1920's. After a trip to two pioneering drive ins this spring, I can tell you that digital looks phenomenal at the Drive In Theatre. The picture looks better than your HDTV and blu ray player. The digital sound is perfect, no more garbled words as the reader slips or small issues with the film strips making the sound funny to hear. Digital makes these issues disappear, but it's not without a high price.
Digital Projectors will allow our iconic drive in theater to present movies in a state-of-the-art format. The images, sounds, and other content that we may now be able to show, will create new avenues for the drive in. We will not only be able to show the movies you know and love, but also host new and exciting community events! The drive in will become a better venue preserving this unique experience for generations to come.
What does The Harvest Moon need to “go digital?”
2 New Digital projectors for a Drive in Theatre(these are special and only 2 companies make ones that work at a drive in)
2 New Digital Servers 2 New Sound Decoders
2 New Automation System 2 New Lens Suites to hit the large screens 2 Brand New Projection Buildings to house the new equipment closer the the screens Extensive Electrical, Internet, and Broadcasting system infrastructure for the new buildings Backup spare parts - These items are built ONLY for movie theatres, in limited supply, and very expensive to procure. We currently have boxes of components to pull from for minor repairs, with digital we won't have that luxury.
Fees to cover the cost of delivery, installation and alignment of this new equipment.- This is very expensive considering only highly trained installation crews can put in this specialized equipment. There are very few in the United States and they travel across the country.
Harvest Moon Twin Drive In-The World's First Wind Powered Movie Theatre
The Harvest Moon has an interesting history. You can read more about it on our about us page: http://harvestmoondrivein.com/About_Us.html
Among the highlights:
Built in 1954, it was one of the very first Drive In theatres in the Midwest to be constructed in a relatively rural area. Most major metropolitan areas had a drive in, but the Harvest Moon was different.
The theatre was originally constructed to show movies on 1 screen and accommodate about 350 cars on it's relatively small 11 acre lot on the outskirts of rural Gibson City IL.
The original carbon arc projector operated into the 1970's when drive in's began disappearing at an alarming rate.
In 1989, Current owner and operator Mike Harroun re-opened the Harvest Moon. Building off his experience running several area indoor theatres, Mike brought in the current vintage 1950's Simplex XL projectors, lamp houses, reels, and a myriad of other components located through the help of personal friends, collectors, and industry professionals across the United States. Working two other full time jobs, Mike and a neighbor invested all of their savings into resurrecting the Harvest Moon and bring family entertainment back to central IL.
In the Mid 90's a second screen was installed that once resided in at the Starlite Drive In in Kankakee IL, and had stood at the Clinton Drive In prior to closing. The theatre opened the second screen in grand fashion premiering the movie 'Twister' on both screens to a first ever sold out showing! The remodel involved crafting an entire new projection booth, building the screen from the foundation up, and setting up parking for the new second screen, the most ambitious upgrade to date at the Harvest Moon.
The recession hit the Harvest Moon hard in 2007. Crowds dwindled, sellout shows became a thing of the past, and for the first time since it's reopening in 1989 The Harvest Moon began to lose money, over $100,000 in a two year period. Despite the set backs, Mike and family fought off a property purchase that attempted to turn the drive in into a power transmission facility, and kept the theatre open with his own funds while losing money for 3 years straight.
In 2009, A Wind Turbine was installed at the Harvest Moon, when it instantly became famous world wide as the 'World's First Wind powered Theatre'. Suddenly, a shift in attitude had taken place, and visitors from Japan, Canada, Australia, Germany, Africa, India and beyond began to make the trek to a small drive in theatre in central Illinois. In 2010 the theatre broke even and ended a 3 year spiral that cost over $100,000.00 in lost revenue/expenses, nearly ending it's existence.
Since then, the crowds are coming back to enjoy a night at the movies like no other; under the stars. They are treated to a fantastic sunset on the west screen, twinkling shooting stars over head, cool night air blowing through the windows, and occasionally a beautiful Harvest Moon lighting the rows of cars as they view a current movie on the big screen at the Harvest Moon Drive In.
Save The Harvest Moon!
We are at the edge of the cliff with nowhere to turn. The mounting expenses of operating this aging facility, tied with the rising costs of procuring movies, paying employees, taxes, and the constant maintenance make this a hard choice. We only have two options, convert or close.
Yes, The Harvest Moon can be saved, but only with your support.
Inspiration in the form of an email! Kickstarter
Our fundraising attempts this year have helped us raise a small portion of the money needed to convert to digital. While reading my email one morning, a friend had shared a news clipping of a small movie theatre in the northern Illinois suburb of Barrington, The Historic Catlow Theatre, and how they had gone from staring down the same threat we are experiencing, to running the most successful fundraising campaign I've seen a theater use: via Kickstarter!
I immediately visited their page and made a small contribution to their cause. I was truly inspired by their story and how they had reached their goal(surpassing it by over 150%). I knew, that if I followed the same formula, and tweaked it to properly represent our theatre, we could follow in their footsteps and save another Illinois Landmark, the Harvest Moon.
The cost of this upgrade is too much for this theatre to support on it's own. $120,000 is more than we can handle when we only operate 6 months a year. The bills become hard to pay in the dead of winter with no income coming in. We have invested heavily in this theatre, and initiated every fundraising project we can imagine and we are still far from our goal of keeping the movies playing on the screens for thousands of young fans to experience.
This Kickstarter campaign can be our savior. Everyone involved will benefit from this digital conversion. It will allow the Harvest Moon to carry on for many years of service to the local communities and it will provide current and future generations with a glimpse into the past while using the beauty of modern technology. You will only find this slice of American history at this historic drive in theatre, the last of it's kind in central Illinois.
The movies will look, sound, and be better than they've ever been featured on our aging screens. Our facilities will be remodeled and upgraded to include better restrooms, more enhanced food offerings, alternative entertainment, badly needed expensive upgrades to our screens and marquee, and keep the drive in alive as an American Icon.
THANK YOU to our generous donors. We sincerely hope you will enjoy your rewards. We've not only followed the formula from the Catlow, but also added value that exceeds the donation for most of the levels we have listed. We have tailored them to our customer base, and hope you can find something that fits for you.
Keep in mind that Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding opportunity. If we don't reach our goal, the pledged funds disappear and we end up with nothing. If we meet and exceed our goal, any and all extra funds will go to the largest improvements we have not been able to afford: renovating the front screen, expanding the restrooms, and restoring our original neon marquee to it's original glory.
We hope to see you all soon - and if you're not from the area, we hope you will have an opportunity to visit us someday! You've never been to a place so filled with the laughter of small children riding the carousel, the perfume of fresh hot popcorn and funnel cakes wafting through the air, or the image of lifetime friendships being forged here.
Thank you for your support!
Our future is literally in your hands. For 58 years this theatre has stood; surviving recession, tornadoes, inflated gas prices, drive in stereotypes, and strong pressure to sell off the land for other commercial purposes. We have been resilient, we have fought hard to keep this icon alive, now we ask you to join our quest to keep this magical place open for future generations to experience. In 2013, only 25-50% of all drive in theatres will still be open, will we be one of the few? It's up to you.
And finally, Our family, The Harroun's, would like to thank Clifford and Joyce Orr and their family for allowing us the privilege of operating and creating this fantastic venue. Our beloved friends David Maxwell, Captain Chicken, their families and all of the others that have passed on leaving a small legacy to the lore of the Harvest Moon. Jim Miller for his extensive help, service, and knowledge- and to all of our friends, patrons & employees!
Make a donation, spread the word, and save a part of American History that needs to be experienced to be described.
- (38 days)