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Moviegoers get situated to watch “The Croods” Friday night at the La Grande Drive-In. The drive-in replaced its film projector with a new Dolby digital projection system Thursday, just in time for opening weekend. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
The days of 35mm film may be over, but the nostalgia of the drive-in lives on in La Grande.
The La Grande Drive-In opened its season Friday night with its new Dolby digital projection system, an upgrade in sound and picture from film.
Drive-in Manager Edna Henderson said the new equipment was installed Thursday, just in time for patrons to enjoy a “crisper sound and much crisper screen.”
Since 1952 the drive-in has attracted guests from throughout the region. It is now one of only four drive-in theaters left in Oregon.
La Grande resident Jim McClure said he brought his children to the drive-in and is now bringing his grandchildren, too.
“I think it’s great, cheap entertainment for the family,” he said.
The cost per car at the drive-in is $18.50 for up to five people and $4 per person after that.
Loaded in the bed of McClure’s truck, his family was ready with pizza, lawn chairs, blankets and a tarp in case of rain for the double feature.
“I think this is an asset to our community,” he said. “I fear one day we’ll lose it.”
McClure, who comes to the drive-in “religiously,” said he is glad about the digital upgrade. It shows the owners are willing to invest to keep the drive-in around, he said.
For some moviegoers like Theresa Curtiss, the drive-in is one of the only ways to pass the time in La Grande, but is a good way to have a relaxing night.
“There’s just nothing else to do except the drive-in now,” she said.
Curtiss, who attends the drive-in several times each summer, said it provides entertainment for all ages.
“They’re pretty good about the movies they pick out,” she said.
Henderson said the drive-in usually plays movies directed at children since the drive-in is a family attraction, but that R-rated movies will play sometimes. Open Friday through Sunday each weekend, each night includes a double feature. Later in the summer, there may even be triple features, Hamilton said.
“The drive-in offers the ability to be more relaxed. You’re in your own car,” she said. “Whether you’re with family or friends, it’s a nice ambiance.”
This year’s drive-in season will run rain or shine through Sept. 2.