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Move to digital forcing decision
Will curtain drop on Northfield Drive-In?
Hinsdale's Northfield Drive-In may have to close after 65 years of providing summer entertainment, due to the cost of going digital. (Courtesy)
The one hundred year old technology at the Northfield Drive-In still projects a great movie, but because film will soon no longer be available for new releases the drive-in must go digital or go dark. courtesy of Gabriel Shakour The one hundred year old technology at the Northfield Drive-In still projects a great movie, but because film will soon no longer be available for new releases the drive-in must go digital or go dark. courtesy of Gabriel Shakour 35-milimeter film hangs from the wall in the Northfield Drive-In projection room. (Courtesy of Gabriel Shakour)
He and his family plan to make the decision and announce to moviegoers on Saturday whether or not this is their last summer, which is also the 65th anniversary of the Northfield Drive-In.
The antique projector belongs in the Smithsonian Institute, Shakour said, but it continues to project film with great quality.
It's an emotional decision, he said.
Shakour comes from a family of drive-in theater owners.
Then, in 1967, his parents bought Hinsdale's Northfield Drive-In and the family ran both until the Keene Drive-In closed in 1985. The Northfield Drive-In remained open and he eventually took over the family business.
"We really don't know. We've been discussing it for months," Shakour said. "A lot of drive-ins are going out of business and they are going to be pulling the plug."
There are a few large drive-ins around the country that can afford it, but the Northfield falls in the middle, not small but not big.
It doesn't seem like a smart financial decision to stay open, he said. But he loves the drive-in and knows the community loves it, too.
"There is a certain iconic value, nostalgia, call it a yearning for a different time," Shakour said. "Parents remember being brought to drive-ins when they were kids and they want to bring their kids. We feel it's a community service as well as a business."
While other theaters and drive-ins have raised money to go digital using campaigns and online fundraising websites, Shakour said he has been hesitant about asking the community to fund the business expense.
Shakour said he is uncomfortable asking people for money, and by doing so competing with non-profits that feed and shelter the poor.
Maybe he's too proud, he said.
In addition, the projection room electrical system would have to be upgraded and the building would also have to be insulated.
It's also a celebration of the 65th anniversary of the drive-in, which opened Aug. 3 1948.
In honor of the anniversary there will also be three movies this weekend instead of two, The Smurfs 2, The Wolverine, and Grown Ups 2.
The nearly 60-year-old Shakour said he is torn. While it might be nice to take a summer vacation for once, he would miss the drive-in dearly.