TWIN FALLS • Both drive-in movie theaters in Twin Falls will soon reopen for a new season, but their futures remain up in the air.
The target reopening date for the Motor-Vu is March 22, depending on weather conditions. And Grand-Vu will likely follow two or three weeks later.
Larry Roper, managing director of Interstate Amusement, said the drive-ins will stay open as long as there are 35-mm films.
“I don’t know how long that’s going to be,” he said.
Without 35-mm films, drive-in theater owners would have to make costly upgrades to digital technology.
“If we cannot get some kind of solution to the end of the 35-mm film or a way to put digital into the drive-ins, they all will be closing,” Roper said.
He said initial information from major studios such as Disney and Paramount indicated 35-mm films won’t be produced after April 1.
The studios have already started to cut back, he said.
For the first time in 35 years, there won’t be a summer show series for children in Jerome because it’s unclear whether 35-mm films will be available to the Orpheum Theatre there.
“Jerome is going to feel the first hit when it loses its summer series,” Roper said.
Upgrading technology at the Motor-Vu and Grand-Vu theaters would mean installing a much larger light source than indoor theaters.
Roper said each drive-in would need an 8,000-9,000 watt system to get light onto the outdoor screen. In comparison, the Twin Falls Cinema only uses 3,000 watts.
Upgrading could cost as much as $100,000 apiece, he said.
Other questions have also come up, Roper said, such as what effect all the dust at the drive-ins would have on the equipment.
Twin Falls is among just a handful of Idaho towns, including Parma and Grangeville, to still have a drive-in theater.
Construction on the Motor-Vu finished in 1947, and the Grand-Vu was built in 1951.
Nationwide, the number of drive-in theaters is declining.
There were an estimated 368 drive-ins nationwide as of July 30, 2012, according to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association’s website.
That compares with 4,063 drive-ins at the indutry’s peak in 1958.