Can Honda Save This Dying Relic of American Tradition?


Honda Motor Co. (NYSE:HMC) understands tradition, and that’s why the company wants to do all it can to save a beloved American pastime: good, old-fashioned drive-ins. Although it dates back to World War II, the reality of the digital revolution indicates that this age-old tradition is on its way out; but now, Honda has proven that it is ready to team up with Los Angeles-based advertising agency RPA to do whatever it can to stop it.

The Japanese automaker is so committed to avoiding drive-in extinction that it launched its own digital campaign Friday that for the first time doesn’t market one of Honda’s new cars. Instead, Ad Age reports that the manufacturer is working to raise community awareness about the drive-in’s waning existence, and it is encouraging user donations that will ultimately help finance the construction of more digital movie projectors.

Project-Drive In’s goal is to help alert community members that by the end of 2013, drive-ins could be on their way out, because that is when Hollywood is expecting to curb its 35 millimeter film distribution to the nation’s movie theaters. That move will effectively keep most small drive-in locations from being able to offer the outdoor movies, because the cost of conversion to digital is estimated at about $75,000 or more per screen, and those venues that don’t reap high daily ticket sales will likely be unable to afford it.

Today, drive-in movies are already on the decline, and this measure by Hollywood will likely only expedite that process. Only about 1.5 percent of U.S. movie screens can be attributed to those of drive-ins, and if it weren’t for Honda’s new digital campaign, that number could sink to zero before too long.

But that’s what Honda is attempting to not let happen, and it is even willing to donate a handful of digital projectors as a reward to those who can help it meet its awareness goals. It is encouraging campaign participants to spread the Project Drive-In word via hashtag, and is also challening them to see a movie at any drive-in theater they can find.

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Starting Friday, people can visit and vote for which drive-in theaters will get a brand new digital projector. There, they can also make donations and also determine which Honda dealerships across the country are helping raise awareness.

Los-Angeles-based RPA is the brains behind the campaign, and once the one-month crusade comes to a close, Honda will pick five theaters to which it will donate a new digital projector, based on user votes. Those theaters with celebrate the end of the summer campaign with a showing of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″ in hopes that its efforts will pay off for the following season.

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