Small town drive-in jumps the digital divide

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OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — Osawatomie’s Midway Drive-In Theater didn’t win a new digital projector in a nationwide contest. But that won’t stop the rural icon from providing spring and summer nights of family fun. Supporters of the Midway say they’ve come up with enough money to buy a digital projector, and the drive-in should open next May for the 2014 season.

“We just want to thank all the supporters who helped raise this money,” said Osawatomie City Councilwoman Tamara Maichel.

She led efforts to raise money for the Midway Drive-In Digital Fund, which in the end handed the owners a check for more than $14,000 to help with a down payment on the projector. The theater faced going dark because it only had an old film projector. But beginning in 2014, all movies will be delivered digitally.

Projectors cost up to $75,000 or more, and the owners, Paul and Elaine Dimoush said they wouldn’t have been able to afford a new projector without help. Paul Dimoush said they were able to put a deal together for a loan from Citizens State Bank in nearby Paola, Kan, and that they’ll make a down payment on the digital technology this week.

“We’ll probably get it installed and run some movies through it to make sure it works before next season,” said Dimoush. He too thanked the public for its help in raising the money.

He and his wife have owned the theater for a number of years, in addition to running a farm. For generations of families it’s been a weekend staple, and many feared the day it would no longer be part of the rural landscape of the Osawatomie and Paola areas.

Supporters had hosted a golf tournament, and a magic show just last weekend, along with selling t-shirts and other items to raise money for the fund.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for everything,” said Maichel in a Facebook message.

For a rural community, “The End” will only be seen in the closing credits of movies that will return in the spring and summer.

Watch John Holt’s August report on efforts to save the drive-in:

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