It’s a commonly sad story. Development expands near a drive-in theater, and its landlord cuts off its lease. What gives that script a happy ending in Austin TX is that the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive In already knows how to relocate, and it plans to reopen just south of town in February.
Blue Starlite owner Josh Frank has a fundraiser going on Kickstarter to improve the new location with a larger screen, “fancy” bathrooms, a 35mm projector, and much more. With 19 days to go, the drive still needed almost $10,000 more in pledges.
When the Austin American-Statesman wrote about the move, it mentioned a specific location on the outskirts of Buda with “a 10-year lease”. Frank told me that’s not so certain. “The exact address has NOT been officially announced,” he wrote, “we are still considering a lot of variables.”
What is certain is that the new location will be significantly south of Austin, albeit within 15 minutes or so. Frank told the Austin Eater, “our small business can not afford the incredible rent rates for 3 acres of land in Central Austin.”
The history of the Blue Starlite is a testament to flexibility in overcoming obstacles. It started seven years ago in an alley that fit only about a dozen cars. That was successful enough for a move to a larger lot, then again to an even larger lot next to the Austin Film Society. But the landlord now wants that spot to build condos, so the Blue Starlite will have to set up elsewhere after the first week of January. Fortunately, Frank has had enough warning to scout out alternative locations.
I asked Frank if a permanent location would change the Blue Starlite’s quirky culture. He said that the chance to offer more services would only improve it. “The Blue will always be a bootstrapped business, no matter what. That IS its charm and what I think people find endearing, But it is time to think about the future, to think about sustainability. Because in the end what people want most out of a business they love is that it will stick around forever, and that is what we are trying to do.”