After Nearly Closing For Good, Starlite Drive-In Celebrates Official Grand Opening

Apr 5, 2019

The Starlite Drive-In Theatre will celebrate its grand opening Friday night.

The ceremonies will include a ribbon-cutting with new owner Blake Smith, Mayor Jeff Longwell and City Council member James Clendenin. It will also recognize donors who helped save the theater.

The event is a victory for the Wichita drive-in, which was closed and then put up for auction last fall.

In response, Wichitans began fundraising to save the theater from being demolished. City officials organized a search for a buyer.

“Without a lot of the community’s outcry, I mean, I would not be there,” said Blake Smith, the new owner of the Starlite. "That’s one of the things that kind of stood out to me was how much people wanted to see the Starlite survive.”

Smith purchased the property in February. He also co-owns the Admiral Twin Drive-In in Tulsa.

Smith and his staff have been working to get the south Wichita theater up and running. The Wichita City Council approved a $200,000 loan to buy new projectors after the old ones were sold by the venue’s previous owner.

Upgrades have been made to the concession area as well. Smith said it was in the process of being disassembled when he bought the property.

The Starlite Drive-In originally opend as the Rainbow Drive-In in 1953. With two screens, the venue has space for 1,300 cars. It’s one of about 350 drive-Ins left in the United States.

The grand opening begins at 6:15 Friday evening at 3900 S. Hydraulic.

The celebration includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony, games and giveaways.

Audrey Korte is an intern in the KMUW News Lab.