Well, kids, this week marks the 1 year anniversary of Austin’s only drive-in movie theater, The Blue Starlight. And being thus, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to share an experience that my wife and I had there recently.
Oh, what’s that? You haven’t heard of The Blue Starlight? You didn’t even know that Austin had a drive-in movie theater?
A bit of background, then.
The Blue Starlight was founded by local author and screenwriter, Josh Frank, in a small lot on East Caesar Chavez. Since that time, the self-proclaimed mini-urban drive-in has grown such that a second Blue Starlight was opened on East 6th Street. The drive-in features a hodgepodge of older favorites (with a focus on the 1980’s), obscure films, and cult classics like Grease, The Goonies, and the original Creature From the Black Lagoon that are sure to delight any film fan.
A Night Out
Maybe six months ago, the wife and I were out tooling around on our bikes (hipsters, I know!), and stumbled across the East 6th Street location of The Blue Starlight. At that time we had no idea that Austin even had a drive-in movie theater, mini-urban or otherwise. But it sounded like a great way to spend an evening, especially with a confederation of trailer park eateries right next door. We filed it away in our to do list, and pedaled on our merry way.
We finally got the opportunity to check the place out a few weeks ago, and we jumped at the chance. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was showing and though it was hotter than tits on a beer outside, we were eager to have our first drive-in movie experience.
The Blue Starlight Min-Urban Drive-In is a laid back atmosphere. The gate attendant was super sweet, smiled, and thanked us for patronizing the theater. The lot attendant quickly directed us to a spot in the back where the trucks and SUV’s were staged. We backed into the spot, put the gate up on the 4-Runner, and headed next door to find some comida.
There were several choices at the trailer park eatery (not to mention The Blue Starlight has their own concessions, including smores that you cook on-site), but we settled on some fish and chips from Bits and Druthers, and a couple of Mexican Cokes. Audio at the East Sixth location plays through your vehicle’s FM radio, so after turning that to the correct station and volume we kicked back with our British fare and enjoyed the pre-movie entertainment.
What might have been a negative actually turned out to be a positive. The lights from the skyscrapers downtown, the sounds of car horns, distant police sirens, and helicopters all added to the charm of the little East Austin drive-in.
With the city skyline as a backdrop, the friendly staff, the great movie, and BYOB policy, there isn’t a hell of a lot bad to say about The Blue Starlight.
Really, this is just nit-picking, so take everything that I’m going to say with a grain of salt.
The Blue Starlight has quite a few rules that are introduced to the patrons through some pretty awful, pre-movie, public service announcements. They’re just really poorly done, computer animated skits. Bad enough that the audience seemed to grow bored of them pretty quickly and tuned them out. The Blue Starlight needs to take a page out of The Alamo Drafthouse’s marketing playbook, and get on the stick with the pre-movie entertainment and PSA’s.
Which leads me to my next complaint. The car next to us, after ignoring the PSA’s warning that smoking and talking during the show were prohibited, proceeded to do both of those things with such vigor that we found ourselves wondering if they’d come to enjoy a movie at all (they were from Louisiana, after all). I’m not a smoker, and I don’t like to smell smoke, if I can help it. I would probably not have thought about it, if the theater didn’t have a rule prohibiting smoking on the grounds out of respect for non-smoking patrons. The thing is, the lot attendant knew these two were smoking, but never did anything about it. My point? Don’t have the rule, if you can’t or won’t enforce it.
Finally (and this is a very tiny complaint), there was a pretty annoying street light just over our left shoulder that we could have done without. This is probably out of the theater owner’s control, but elimination of that glare would make the viewing conditions a bit more favorable. It’s not a deal breaker, though.
The Final Analysis
Whether you’re a hard-core film fan, a casual movie-goer, have never been to a drive-in, or just someone who pines for the days of sock hops and B-movies,The Blue Starlight is worth checking out. Where the hell else can you take your friends, your beer, a blanket or folding chairs, and enjoy a movie all for $25? See you at the movies.
Photos courtesy Kelley Denby Photography.