Guest article by Lisa Taylor
Theaters have come a long way since I was a child. We have so many options open to us these days that it really just depends on what you want your movie watching experience to be.
Do you prefer things to fly out from the screen at you, while you’re wearing funky glasses and screaming in terror? If so, the 3D experience may be the way to go. If you’d rather “feel” the movie, then a trip to the Interactive Theater, replete with moving seats and blasts of air into your face may be more up your alley. Is full bar service brought straight to your recliner more your style? You can get that at a few places around town as well.
But we also have another movie watching choice in Austin. To experience it, we have to jump into our way back machines and head out to Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In.
Editor’s Note: Blue Starlite’s final showing at the 51st Street location is on Jan. 7, 2016. The theater is expected to reopen in Buda on Feb. 3, 2016.
On Austin’s east side at 1901 E 51st Street, owner Josh Frank has created a movie experience that will bring back memories of piling into Mom and Dad’s old station wagon wearing your PJ’s and hunkering down for a night of popcorn and film. Previously located downtown off Cesar Chavez, Blue Starlite has a new location with a cool, funky space, ironically located just next door to the Austin Studios lot.
The theater also happens to be sitting in the old National Guard Armory parking lot that this long time soldier worked at in 2008. That connection may explain why you’ll see Army connexes being used as a backboard for the huge screen. The area is spacious, perfect for its purpose, and I’m happy to see it being repurposed for this endeavor. When asked how he came to choose this location, Josh said that once he found it, he felt that it was just “meant to be.”
This Season at Blue Starlite Drive-In
This year, the Blue Starlite is celebrating its 5th anniversary. With a new season underway, Josh Frank has planned several theme nights in light of recent events. The theater will host a Robin Williams tribute over three nights between September 13-18, 2014. On September 13th, Hook will show before Birdcage. September 14th will feature the beloved Dead Poets Society, teamed up with Good Morning Vietnam. Finally, on September 18th, Blue Starlite will replay Hook with a surprise second feature sure to entertain the entire family. Each night will begin with Mork & Mindy reruns, which will also play during intermission.
When I spoke with Josh, he was also excited to tell me about a big Halloween month planned at Blue Starlite, which is typically their busiest time of year. Blue Starlite’s website has 22 days of movies listed, with films ranging from Weird Science to Ghostbusters to The Exorcist.
A special addition this season is a partnership with Pop Culture Tonight radio personality, Patrick Phillips. Two weekends a month, Patrick will host a pre-show drive-in broadcast featuring live interviews with select cast members from that night’s chosen movies. The show is exclusively for Blue Starlite visitors, broadcast straight to their car radios.
There are many upgrades planned for the next month or so, including the addition of several more vintage speakers, upgrades to the seating area and mood lighting.
My Night at Blue Starlite Drive-In
Not having experienced a drive-in movie since I was a teenager, I was excited to load up the car with a few gal pals on a Friday night and take off for Blue Starlite. I had pre-ordered my hot dogs, popcorn and sodas online. So once my group arrived, I was simply given a ticket to pick up my treats at the concession stand.
We decided to take a seat at one of the picnic tables up front. Then we settled in for a night at the movies like I hadn’t experienced in a very long while, a double feature of Risky Business and Revenge of the Nerds. As the sun set behind the screen with the Austin skyline in the distance and the first strains of the movie started to play, I felt a smile spread across my face. I do believe Josh Frank is onto something here. Something different.
Another Austinite keeping it weird.
Lisa Taylor is a music lover, aspiring writer, and military veteran who has served for almost 25 years in the Army. She has lived in and around Austin, Texas since 1970. Read more from Lisa on her blog.
When was the last time you went to a drive-in movie?
Cover photo by Cameron Bergeron.