ELIZABETHTON — Although the contest is designed so that no one knows how well they are doing, State Line Drive-In owner Andrew Wetzel is hopeful he may be one of the five drive-ins to be awarded an $80,000 digital projector in the Honda Project Drive-In online voting contest.
Honda sponsored the contest to preserve the iconic drive-in movie theaters. All are threatened with closure in the coming months as the motion picture industry prepares to stop distributing 35 mm prints and go exclusively digital.
The upgrades will cost theaters close to $100,000. Wetzel said his tiny drive-in does not have the customer count to justify such a large investment. The Honda Project Drive-In is one way he can remain open in the coming years. But he needs to finish in the top five in the voting.
“We don’t have a clue how we are doing, but everywhere I go, people tell me they have been voting for me. If everyone is voting, the way they say they have, I believe I have a shot,” Wetzel said Tuesday. He said a total of 1,494,626 votes have been cast in the contest so far.
The contest is down to its last week, so it is important to get as many people voting as he can. He said voting ends at 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
Wetzel likes his odds in the contest. Since five projectors are being awarded and there are only 98 drive-ins entered in the contest, that means he only has a one-in-five chance of winning. The owners of another local drive-in, Twin-City in Bristol, are not competing in the contest and are planning to either sell or close the 53-year-old Bristol landmark.
The closest drive-ins that are in the contest are in Norton, Va., and Bessemer City, N.C.
Fans of the State Line can vote once a day on their computer, plus they can vote once a day by text. To vote by computer, go to http://projectdrivein.com. Text votes can be made at VOTE 48 444999.
Wetzel, who also works as a firefighter with the Elizabethton Fire Department, said he has his fellow firefighters voting.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” Fire Chief Barry Carrier said as he texted his vote for the day.