Save Fun-Lan!

Tampa’s historic drive-in needs to get in Honda’s game.

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I’ve got a lot of great memories that center on Tampa’s Fun-Lan Drive-In.

Watching Independence Day on Independence Day with what seemed like a thousand other liquored-up American yay-hoos of all races, classes and philosophies.

Seeing Alien3 with just enough LSD in my system to make the whole thing seem like a masterful exercise in taut futuristic suspense. (Subsequent viewings have revealed the film to be … well, you know. *Sigh*)

Playing my all-time favorite pinball game, Creature from the Black Lagoon, before the feature or whenever something like Casper got boring.

Taking the woman who would inexplicably agree to spend her life with me somewhere other than a bar on our first “real” date to Walk the Line.

To be fair, none of those titles is exactly ripped from this summer’s list of top-grossing films; I haven’t been to Fun-Lan in more than half a decade. But that doesn’t mean the place isn’t special to me.

(There was also the night of Wild Irish Rose and Into the Mouth of Madness, which, I dunno, but Into the Mouth of Madness makes even less sense to me sober than it did in the throes of post-adolescent alcohol poisoning. Let’s discuss the validity of its Lovecraftian touchstones in the comments online, shall we?)

So I was excited to find out about car-maker Honda’s Project Drive In initiative/promotion, in which the gargantuan car-and-creepy-personal-robot maker is attempting to bring attention to the American cultural tradition’s imminent demise. And then I was pissed to discover Fun-Lan wasn’t a part of it.

The country’s film distribution & exhibition industries — one industry, actually, but shush, don’t be un-fucking-American about it — are poised to make the wholesale switch from film to digital projection. It’s gonna save the major theater chains a ton of money in the long run on duplication, but in the short run, it apparently costs $80,000 (Honda’s figure) to upgrade a venue from the traditional 35mm projection equipment to a digital setup. That’s more than most of the nation’s drive-ins could ever hope to afford, and Honda is positioning itself as a patron of Americana by putting up the cash to convert five drive-ins across this great country, determined by popular vote, to a digital projection system.

Our drive-ins are a doomed species. Honda could probably care less; it’s a sweet promotional gambit, though, and one that provides a cultural benefit no matter where you stand on corporate stewardship. Whether or not a handful of drive-ins survives for a limited period by hoarding prints and screening purist indies remains to be seen.

I think — I hope — that will happen.

But that’s not my point. My point is, Tampa’s Fun-Lan Drive-In isn’t even listed on Honda’s ballot.

Could we do something about that, please?

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Follow Scott on Twitter (if you dare) at @harrellscott or be all indie-kid about it and track him down on Tumblr at tumblr.thelamprey.

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