The Edmond Sun

Arts & Entertainment

June 14, 2012

Guthrie’s Beacon Drive-in moves to digital

GUTHRIE — Individuals deciding to take in a movie at the Beacon Drive-in are in for a treat. The owner, Marsh Powell, recently installed a brand new digital projector, which will improve the quality of the movie and lessen other problems associated with film projectors.

“The picture should be a lot brighter,” said Powell, the third generation family member to own and operate the Beacon in Guthrie. “And there won’t be any flickering in the picture or anything like that.”

The change is one that Powell didn’t enter into lightly, and was mandated by the industry, rather than any need that was readily apparent at the drive-in.  

“By the end of next year, there will be no film,” Powell said, “so you have to do it.

“I thought I had a lot more time. I thought maybe 10 years. Until about three months ago, I wasn’t even interested. And then they sent out a letter saying there would be no more film.”

While the transfer to digital is rapidly becoming mandatory for theaters who want to stay in business, the technology is still rare among drive-ins in Oklahoma.

“This is only the second one in the state for a drive-in,” said Ken Williams, a technician with Strong Technical Services, the company installing the system. “We did one about, maybe it’s been over a month now, in Poteau.”

“There’s four or five other drives-ins (in the area), I’m the only one in the central part (of the state) who has done this conversion. There’s one over by Arkansas that did it two weeks ago. A lot of little theaters, and independently owned ‘mom and pop’ theaters, they are going to close down. They’re not going to do this.”

The expensive nature of this endeavor has caused an increase in ticket price at the Beacon. It is now $7 a ticket to see the movie, a price increase that Powell said doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

“People have been telling me for years, you’re too cheap,” Powell said. “The first night we started charging more, nobody said anything.”

Movie-goers won’t be the only beneficiaries to the new technology. While the equipment is a serious investment to make, it also will allow Powell more free time to concentrate on other tasks that need his attention at the theater.

“It will save time putting film together. It’ll make it a lot shorter and easier on that part. Everything was so antique. Part of (the old equipment) was original (from when the theater first opened). So it had been in here for 60 years,” Powell said. “Whenever you come to the drive-in, if sometimes you notice the picture fills the screen all the way and sometimes it has dark sides on it, that’s two different aspects of film. This thing takes care of it. It automatically fixes it for you. Before I had to change those reels and make it fit the screen. I won’t even have to come in here at 9 o’clock and turn it on or anything. It will automatically start up.”

One option that has opened up with this new technology is the ability to have private screening and show smaller, local independent films.  

“There are people who wanted to come up, they had made some little independent film, producing it, and they wanted to screen it up here and I wasn’t capable of doing that because they don’t have it on film, they had it on DVD. But now that is an option,” Powell said.

Satellite feeds for events, such as Thunder games or concerts are also a possibility, provided the proper channels are followed, Powell said.

A special feature of the drive-in this month will be the annual fireworks display taking place June 23.

FOR MORE information about the Beacon Drive-in, and to see a list of upcoming movies, visit beacondrive-in.com.

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