BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
Get your kids into their pj’s and bundle them in the back seat: Now is your last chance this year to experience an all-American family evening at the Starlite Drive-In Theatre.
Located at 7630 S. Old State Road 37, the theater has been operating since the 1950s and still has the nostalgic feel of that era. Its current owners, however, have upgraded to first-run movies designed to appeal to families, with nightly double features offering a kid-friendly flick first and something more sophisticated for when the little ones nod off. The concessions have also been expanded and now include everything from the standard popcorn-and-soda to chicken kebabs, burgers, and pulled pork sandwiches.
Starlite’s original owners, Ruth and Carl Stewart, built the theater in their backyard in 1955 when drive-ins were all the rage. At that time, according to current owner Troy Jarvis, there were 117 drive-in theaters in Indiana. The Stewarts continued to operate the theater for nearly 50 years, when they sold it to Jarvis, 38, and his wife Cindy. Today, Starlite is one of just 16 drive-ins in the state, Jarvis says.
The theater boasts a 40-by-75-foot screen, similar in size to those used for IMAX movies. Viewers can tune in to get FM sound or just listen to one of the many speakers placed throughout the grounds. Parking spaces are designed to also accommodate blankets and lawn chairs for those who prefer to exit their vehicles during the program.
Although DVDs, DVRs, and mega-multiplexes have all cut into his business, Jarvis says the relaxed, community atmosphere is what keeps his seven-acre lot full with up to 800 people each evening.
“I’m amazed at how early people show up, sometimes two or three hours before a show, to throw a Frisbee and have a picnic before the movie starts,” he says. “You can have six or seven hours of outdoor entertainment. It’s like a mini-vacation.”
Starlite shows are Friday through Sunday, April through mid-October, rain or shine. Each weekend’s movies are announced the preceding Tuesday or Wednesday online at starlitebloomington.com and at the theater’s hotline at 800-334-2621. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children 6-12, and free for kids under 6.