We are an iconic motel/drive-in theater serving small rural communities in the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River, in Vermont and New Hampshire, searching for a way to pay for the movie industry's switch from 35mm film to digital.
We're one of only two motel/drive-ins left in America -- and we're looking for you to help save an incredibly rare species: us.
Our drive-in & motel also has the unique addition of a snack shack open during movie times that serves our own "Thunderburgers" made from beef from our own cows. Yes, our family, the Trapps, own a farm just across the river from Fairlee, and when we're not busy with the motel or theater, we raise our own cattle. Even the coffee, butter, and whipped cream we serve is from Vermont.
We hear it all the time now: shop local, support local small businesses. The communities we serve are fiercely dedicated to shopping local, staying local, eating local, and supporting local small businesses. But beyond ticket prices and supporting us with their patronage, we can't entirely rely on our small towns to help fund the enormous expense we now have to switch to a digital projector and sound.
That's why we're here on Kickstarter: to ask you, the "local" world community of crowdfunding to help us out.
Who we are:
The Fairlee Motel & Drive-In Theater is one of only two theaters in the country that also have an adjacent motel. Twelve rooms parallel to Route 5 (the main state highway along the scenic Connecticut River valley) form part of the drive-in fence, and guests can watch the night's movies from the comfort of their own beds through a picture window.
First built in 1950 and named “Highway 5,” the Fairlee Drive-In has been in continuous operation save for a couple of years in the 1980s, providing a safe place for parents to bring their kids, friends to hang out, and people to get away from it all for a night.
We are unique among drive-ins in that we let our patrons bring in their own food, and since our family took over operations in 2003, we have invested tens of thousands of dollars in needed repair and renovation, including:
- A new metal fence around the field
- A new 35mm projector to replace the ancient carbon arc projector from the 1950's
- A remodeled snack shack
- Extensive renovation of the motel rooms
- FM radio sound for the movies
- Sound by the snack shack and projection booth
If we succeed in our goal on Kickstarter, the next immediate projects we will tackle this year will include repainting the screen and replacing any faulty speakers so everyone can hear the movie whether they have a working car radio or not.
Our family (the Trapps) run the motel year-round and the drive-in during its open season, late April through mid-September. We bought the drive-in when it went up for sale in 2003. Peter Trapp went to camp in Fairlee and spent many nights at the drive-in when he was a kid. He always jokes with us kids that he takes us on vacation every night! In addition to the motel & drive-in, our family owns Thunder Ridge Ranch in nearby Piermont, NH, just over the Vermont border. On it we raise all sorts of animals, mainly Black Angus cattle from which we make our hamburgers at the drive-in. We call those delicious burgers (okay, I'm biased, but they are great) "Thunderburgers."
The Valley News did an article on us last year, which has an accompanying audio-slideshow that really shows how our family-run theater serves the communities here in a unique and needed manner:
Why we need to raise funds:
The quintessential American drive-in theater, where generations of moviegoers enjoyed movies under the stars with their friends and family, perhaps even had their first kiss, is threatened. Looking to cut costs, the movie industry is rejecting traditional 35mm film for new digital film prints. Film as we know it is coming to an end. To keep up with changing technology, theaters must either convert to digital projectors or fade to black, forever. Unfortunately, the new projectors aren't a dime a dozen -- they cost $75,000 each. That's an enormous amount of money for a small, local theater like us.
When we first heard about the possibility that movies would stop being made in 35mm, we hoped for the best and waited to see how much more time was left. Well folks, time's up. Paramount released their last movie on 35mm film this winter, and the other movie studios are expected to quickly follow suit.
It’s time to convert or close our gates for good.
Honda sponsored a contest to convert a handful of drive-ins this past summer -- their video explains our situation very well.
Where we stand now:
Because there is a waiting list to get projectors ordered and installed for spring/summer 2014, we had to bite the bullet and we’ve already ordered the projector. We used the donations raised so far from local people for a down payment but are still nearly $55,000 short. So, we are launching another Kickstarter campaign to pay for the projector.
Because Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing venture, and we get no money at all if we come up short, we are setting the goal at what we raised last time -- $27,595 -- but in reality are asking everyone to overfund us. That way, if we reach our goal, but don’t get all the way to $55,000, we can still put all those pledges toward the payment and take a huge chunk off our debt -- and keep our gates open. And the movies running!
If you pledged before, please consider pledging again. If you feel you can't pledge a second time, please take a minute from your day to spread the word about this campaign: tweet it, blog it, email your friends about it. We need this to go viral.
Remind people that we are a part of iconic America that is fast disappearing. Remind people that keeping local small businesses alive is really the only way we're going to face up to the Big Businesses of the world. Remind people that shopping, eating, staying, supporting locally is what this world is really about. And that the Fairlee Motel & Drive-In typifies this.
Most people reading this will never visit Fairlee, VT (and that’s a shame, because we really do live in a simply gorgeous area of the US), but remember that wherever you do live, you’ll be supporting a rare breed: the motel/drive-in. And even rarer: a motel/drive-in that serves its own family farm-raised beef burgers! Our perks include options for people who live locally and live nationally or internationally. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends in Australia, England, Iceland, wherever, about us. Know a drive-in memorabilia collector in New Zealand? Tell them about our perk that includes one of our old speakers! Do you live nearby and want to invite all your friends for a night out at a double-feature? Donate and pick a perk that allows you to get multiple tickets to our theater!
We're gonna give this our all and we need as much help as you can give. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize and pray that the hot dog in the intermission clip keeps jumping into the bun out under those starry Vermont night skies.
What we have done to date:
When we first came to terms with the fact that we needed to purchase a new projector for such an enormous amount of money, we gathered our family around our dinner table and discussed what we could do. We decided to let our patrons and the community have a say in whether yet another community theater would fade to black. Our first post to our Facebook group telling them about our dilemma was shared 292 times, and the following outpouring of support both deeply humbled and encouraged us that this place was well worth saving. Two concerts (at the drive-in), a benefit auction, many t-shirt sales and individual donations later, we have raised $22,706 of our goal. We are so appreciative of what the community has done for us so far and hope that Kickstarter will bring our collective dream to fruition, so future generations can fall in love with the movies all over again.
We have ordered the projector we need for the switch to digital, but need to pay for it now. What will the new system do that the old one didn’t?
- Better sound and crisp picture quality
- Ability to play advertisements and videos before the show
- Able to also play Blu-Ray movies
The specific projector needed for our size screen is a Barco DP4K-32B.
We will need to install:
- the new projector
- a new sound system
- an integrated electrical system
- climate control inside the projection booth to protect the sensitive electronics
The people behind the project:
(Credit- Mel Gitchel)
The Trapps: Tucker, Peter, Erika, PJ, and Cooper.
Contact Us: Cell: 603-272-5008 Email: email@example.com
Risks and challenges
How does Kickstarter work?
It's simple. We set our goal at $27,595. You make a pledge, and if we reach our goal, your pledge will go to pay for the projector and you will receive the accompanying perk(s). If we do not make our goal, even by a few dollars, no one is charged, and we are back at square one. The Kickstarter system guarantees that if we are successful the money you've pledged will result in a completed project.
If you are unable to donate, spread the word! Tell your friends, neighbors, colleagues, your journalist cousin, share our campaign on Twitter, Facebook, wherever you can! The more people who know, the greater our chance of success!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)