The cries of the few hundred remaining drive-in theater owners that they'll be put out of business if movie studios go ahead with plans to switch to all-digital distribution by the end of the year have been heard. On Monday, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and Cinedigm, a leading digital projector maker, offered to help the drive-in owners make the switch. Drive-ins face problems doing so that are unique -- principally illuminating a screen from a projector that is often a football-field in distance away. Cinedigm said that it expected to find a solution to that problem and to work with studios to fund the installations, primarily through virtual print payments, in which studios contribute their savings from digital distribution into a fund that pays off the cost of digital projectors over time. Currently, drive-in theaters are generally small mom-and-pop operations that operate seasonally -- usually less than half the year, and studios have therefore shown little interest in making virtual print deals with them since it will take so much longer to amortize the cost of equipment. But following numerous newspaper reports indicating that drive-ins will go under if studios end distribution on film, the drive-ins have been brought into the digital fold. In a statement, Alison Choppelas, Cinedigm's VP of Business Affairs, said, By providing drive-in theaters digital content, including studio feature films, indie films, concerts and cultural events, this important piece of Americana will be an even more engaging gathering spot for the communities they serve.
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