SKOWHEGAN — Get ready to get scared at the movies.

A Stephen King movie marathon is set for the Skowhegan Drive-in Theater this summer with the hope of scaring up enough money to convert projection equipment at the drive-in from 35 mm film reels to digital.

“Pet Sematary,” “Creepshow,” “The Shining” and “Christine” will be screened at the drive-in on Waterville Road, U.S. Route 201, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 1 and 2, said Alicia Barnes, business and marketing manager at The Red Barn Restaurant on Riverside Drive in Augusta, which is sponsoring the fundraiser.

Barnes said The Red Barn Cares Foundation usually raises money for people who have costly medical needs and for nonprofit organizations, such as the Humane Society and various project graduation parties; but it made an exception this time when members learned of the drive-in’s plight. The theater must convert to the modern digital format or close.

Barnes said they got to know drive-in owner Donald C. Brown Jr. last year when they were helping the Saco Drive-in by sharing Internet links for a national competiton.

“People were commenting, ‘Why don’t you help the Skowhegan Drive-in?'” she said. “This year, one of our Facebook fans posted on the drive-in’s page that they should reach out to The Red Barn. Don Brown actually sent the Red Barn a message on Facebook, and I made contact with him.”

Brown said earlier this year that the Skowhegan Drive-In sadly could celebrate its 60th year of operation this summer by making it its final year of operation.

He said major motion picture studios are phasing out 35 mm film reels in favor of digital movies. New, expensive equipment is needed, or it’s curtains for the venerable outdoor movie theater, Brown said.

Brown launched a Facebook page where there are links to YouTube videos called “Save America’s Drive-ins” and “Save Skowhegan Drive-in,” along with a digital petition to urge American automakers to help save drive-ins and a link, “Help the Skowhegan Drive-In convert to Digital,” on fundrazr.com.

Brown, who lives in Felton, Del., bought the drive-in theater in May 2012. He said the drive-in needs $56,000 for full conversion to digital, plus installation costs. As of last summer, an estimated 357 drive-in movie theaters remained in the United States, a steep decline from 4,000 or 5,000 that gave drive-in theaters iconic status in the late 1950s.

Barnes said the total cost of conversion to digital could reach $80,000. Barnes projected that they could raise about $30,000 if the two nights of the Stephen King marathon sell out. She said there will be radio and print advertising this summer to promote the event.

She said she located at least four archival prints of the movies because the drive-in cannot play digital media.

“The deal with the movie companies is that I had to send Sony, Paramount and Warner Bros. a proposal; and I actually contacted Stephen King’s assistant first to make sure he was OK with this and we had his blessing,” Barnes said.

Barnes said tickets to the shows cost $50 per carload of people for general admission and $150 per carload for VIP spots in the first two rows. There will be three movies each night. Tickets will be sold only in advance of the August shows and not at the gate, she said.

Darling’s Ice Cream For a Cause truck will be there Friday night, Aug. 1, and The Red Barn’s beverage vendor will donate all of the Coca-Cola products, she said.

To buy tickets, go to The Red Barn and the Skowhegan Drive-in’s Facebook pages, where there are purchase links. Barnes said if by the end of the summer there isn’t enough money for the digital conversion, Brown and The Red Barn Foundation will donate the proceeds of the marathon benefit to a local nonprofit.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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