Chesterton Tribune



Jimmy Buffett concert to raise funds for digitizing drivein movie theaters

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Singer Jimmy Buffett, whose hit songs like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” inspire his legion of “Parrothead” fans, will perform a concert to be broadcast with the goal of raising money for drive-in movie theaters across the nation, including the 49er Drive-In Theatre here in Porter County, at 675 N. Calumet Ave., Valparaiso.

Buffett and his Coral Reefer Band will perform at Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth Texas on the evening of June 19, and the concert will be broadcast live at drive-ins nationwide, like the 49er.

The owners of the 49er are bringing a band to the 49er to be the opening act before Buffett’s concert is shown on the big screen. Food and alcohol sales will also be part of this adults-only event.

The gates open at the 49er, 675 N. Calumet Ave., (old Rt. 49) at 4 p.m. on June 19.

The live band will play from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by the Jimmy Buffett concert. All vehicles must be in place by 7 p.m. so the concert is not interrupted. Tickets, which are $18 each, are available at

Steve Cotton, one of the owners of the 49er, said Buffett’s benefit concert comes at a time when drive-ins face having to come up with $75,000 to $100,000 to buy digital equipment now that movies on film are being phased out.

Drive-in theaters, which once numbered well over 4,000 across the country during their heyday in the late 1950, are down to fewer than 350. And with the conversion to digital equipment becoming necessary, many more face closure, Cotton said.

“Unfortunately, some of the smaller ones that are hanging on by a thread, it’s going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Cotton said, adding that the 49er is fortunate enough to have been able to pay for the switch to digital.

For Cotton, operating the 49er is a labor of love. One of his best memories from childhood is of his dad coming home from work and saying, “Let’s load up the car. We’re going to the drive-in.”

Cotton, his wife, Phyllis, his brother Mike, and a dedicated staff make sure the show goes on seven nights a week during the summer, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the spring and fall.


Posted 5/29/2014