Laurel Drive-In Theater Now Digital - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Laurel Drive-In Theater Now Digital

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A few weeks ago, KULR-8 News brought you the story of small theater's struggle to stay open, during an age of digital projections. Hollywood studios reportedly are planning to discontinue new movie offerings on film reel by the end of the year.

"Been scaring us for five years. If film's not gonna be here any longer, you're either gonna do it, or you're gonna be out of business." said Riley Cooke, co-owner of the drive-in theater.

On Friday, Laurel's Amusement Park Drive-In Theater became one of the last movie theaters in the area to switch to digital. Riley and his wife Vickie said when they decided to switch to digital, there were some challenges.

"For the longest time, there wasn't even a projector available that would throw that movie 320 feet that we need to throw it." said Riley.

That eventually changed, and the Cookes spent most of Thursday night setting up the projector, and getting it ready for Friday's showings. The new projectors now play movies on hard drive supplied by the studios, a far cry from the days of film reels.

"It would take 45 minutes or better to build a movie, because you have to splice the reels together, and make sure everything came in heads and not tails, because then it would be upside down and backwards. I've done that." said Vickie, laughing as she recounted the unfortunate experience.

"We had things called 'brain wrap', where it looks like a Christmas Tree. The film piled up, and you get to tell everybody out there 'thanks for coming. This movie's over until we spend about four hours straightening this mess up!'" said Riley.

Now, the Cookes say the theater will have better movie quality and sold, at a bargain.

"$7.50 for adults, kids five to 14, and seniors are $5, and you get both movies for that price." said Vickie.

One type of movie people will not be able to see at the Amusement Park Drive-In, however, are 3D films. The theater is simply not built for that kind of showing.

This story aired as a part of "Kenny's Tech Korner", local stories on technology by KULR-8's Kenneth Wong that airs on Fridays on the KULR-8 News at 10. If you have any technology questions or story ideas, please leave a message on the KULR-8 Facebook Page, or send Kenny an e-mail at