Pike Drive-in to host third Spook-er-roo fundraiser

MONTGOMERY – Spring Spook-er-roo, a retro horror film marathon, will be hosted April 22 and 23 at the Pike Drive-in Theater, 5798 Route 15, to raise awareness and cash toward a critically-needed digital conversion of the venue’s current 35mm film projection system.

Spring Spookerroo involves the screening each night of three retro horror film favorites in beautifully preserved 35mm film. They are “Army of Darkness” (1992), the final film in director Sam Raimi’s famous “Evil Dead” trilogy; “Demons” (1985), among the most popular titles from the 1980s Italian zombie movie genre, presented by Dario Argento; and a drive-in exploitation favorite, “Scream Bloody Murder” (1973).

“We’ve selected three retro horror hits with intriguing plots and mostly non-stop action and thrills,” said show organizer and co-sponsor Don Dzikowski, of Nostalgic Drive-in Theater Newspaper Ads. “These films will more than retain interest even as they play very late into the evening and early morning hours.”

The event will include pre-show and intermission entertainment from local DJ George Nash, as well as contests and prize giveaways. Food and refreshments will be available in the concession stand. Gates open at 6 p.m. each night, with the show starting off with vintage cartoons at roughly 8 p.m.

Spring Spook-er-roo marks the third Spookerroo retro horror film festival to be held at the Pike Drive-in over the past two years, seeking to draw attention toward an eventual digital conversion for the drive-in. The cost for digital projection can cost between $30,000 and $75,000 for one screen alone, which is prohibitively expensive for an independently-owned venue like the three-screen Pike Drive-in, according to owner Joe McDade.

National drive-in theater analyst Rick Cohen noted that the Pike Drive-in ranks among roughly 30 operating drive-in theaters across the US that have not yet converted to digital as a result of the exorbitant costs.

However, these drive-ins may not be able to hold off much longer, as the Hollywood studios continue to make less of the latest blockbuster movies needed to attract crowds available in a film format. Recent blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Zootopia” and “Deadpool” were not widely offered in film format to any venues, Cohen noted. Meanwhile, many of this season’s upcoming blockbusters including “Captain America: Civil War,” “Finding Dory” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” are not expected to be offered in film, he added.

“There may not be enough 35mm prints for drive-ins to break even this season,” said Cohen, who owns the four-screen Transit Drive-in located in Buffalo, New York, which fully converted to digital in 2012.

When studios do supply limited numbers of the new films in 35mm, such as the case with the recent “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” they are putting the squeeze on non-converted theaters by demanding longer advance notice of roughly a month, Cohen said.

Another roughly 300 drive-ins around the country already have converted and continue to remain open, out of the several that have closed in recent years due mostly to the cost of digital. The roughly 330 still-operating drive-ins are down from about 360 just a few years ago. Cohen named several locations which have closed under no plans to reopen since last year alone.

In their golden age of the late 1950s, drive-in theaters had numbered some 4,600 locations across the country. Increasing land values for big box stores and condos and the ever-increasing prevalence of home video have closed massive numbers of locations, in particular during the 1980s, with digital costs the latest threat to any remaining viability of the sector.

The Pike Drive-in Theater has been in continuous operation since 1953. The nearby Crazy Bob’s Harvest Moon Drive-in near Williamsport closed at the end of the 2011 season.

Dzikowski invited people to come out and enjoy a drive-in experience reminiscent of the horror film marathons that were once a staple of drive-in theaters when they were a part of most every city and town of any size in the United States in the 1950s through the 1970s.

“We have three great retro horror movies, live entertainment and prize giveaways. We hope many will come out to Spring Spook-er-roo for a great retro drive-in experience, while showing support for keeping around a local family institution for another 63 years,” Dzikowski said.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/658215700986020 or call 570-547-7232.