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COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: Local drive-in theater begins next chapter in long history

New general manager Austin Wolf showed off the Huntington Drive-In Theater’s 35mm  film projector before it was replaced with digital cinema equipment.     Photo by Joni Knott

New general manager Austin Wolf showed off the Huntington Drive-In Theater’s 35mm film projector before it was replaced with digital cinema equipment. Photo by Joni Knott

The Huntington Drive-In Theater has a long-standing, 65-year history filled with twists, turns and updates, each of which have allowed for the continuance of the drive-in tradition. The procurement of the theater by Goodrich Quality Theaters, owner of the Huntington 7, begins the next chapter in the Huntington Drive-In Theater’s story.

“I came here a lot as a kid,” said new general manager of the Huntington Drive-in Theater Austin Wolf. “I never imagined I would get to work here, let alone run it. It’s a really big honor for me.”

While the final contracts were closed between Goodrich Quality Theaters and John and Nellie Detzler, previous owners of the Huntington Drive-In Theater, on April 16, Wolf and the Detzlers are currently working together to get ready for the coming drive-in season.

“I’m learning from them [the previous owners] because they have been here for quite some time, and they have a lot of experience,” said Wolf.

The Detzlers owned the Huntington Drive-In Theater for the last 13 seasons.

“They [the previous owners] are doing one last showing on the 35mm film projector to celebrate the theater’s 65-year anniversary and its history working with film,” Wolf said.

The final 35mm film showing was free to the public and featured two films: “Penguins of Madagascar” (2014) and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” (2014).

After the last showing on 35mm film, Goodrich Quality Theaters updated the facilities to be able to accommodate high quality digital projection.

“We will be having a free showing of ‘Melificent’ on Thursday, April 30, to debut the new system,” Wolf said.

According to Wolf, the shift from 35mm film to digital projection will be the largest and most notable change that Goodrich Quality Theaters will be making.

“You will notice a huge difference in movie quality,” he said. “With film, you can run into the print being scratched or the sound on the film being off.”

Wolf said that film can also appear fuzzy on the screen at times and is quite easily damaged.

“With digital projection, you don’t have to worry about any of that,” he said. “It’s going to be crystal clear and really pop.”

Other changes in the manner in which the Huntington Drive-In operates include the acceptance of credit cards and the addition of the Goodrich Quality Theater frequent moviegoer program.

“As far as I know, everything else is going to stay pretty much the same,” Wolf said. “The ticket prices are staying the same, and the food is all staying the same with relatively close to the same prices.”

In an era where drive-ins are going by the wayside, Wolf is proud that Goodrich Quality Theaters will allow for the Huntington Drive-In Theater to continue on into the future.

“It’s cool because this piece of Huntington gets to stay open when it’s getting harder and harder for them [drive-in theaters] to stay open,” Wolf said. “Hopefully future generations get to experience this unique movie going experience.”

The Huntington Drive-In Theater summer 2015 drive-in season will be opening on May 1 with “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

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