June 18: Starlite 14 Drive In, Richland Center WI

Starlite 14 marquee with screen in background

Photo from the Starlite 14 Facebook page

It’s Day 169 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. I had to add a little zigzagging to catch weekend-only drive-ins when they’re open. In this case, it means driving almost three hours from Chilton WI to the Starlite 14 Drive In just southeast of Richland Center WI.

The Starlite opened as the Highway 14 Drive-In in 1952, owned by Sarah Eskin and Ervin Morris. It was renamed the Starlite 14 in the mid-1980s, and according to Cinema Treasures, Bill and Lisa Muth bought the place in 1988. You can see Bill Muth in this November 2013 YouTube video explaining the need to get money for a digital projector. By early 2014, the new system was in place, and the Starlite 14 keeps rolling.

The 2016 young adult novel The Giant Smugglers features the Starlite 14 by name. It’s the only place where the protagonist can bring his 20-foot friend to watch a movie.

And that’s pretty much all I could find about the Starlite 14. One blogger speculated that the original Highway 14 marquee blew down, possibly explaining the name change. I saw a 1975 photo of the original wooden screen (with room for offices on the ground floor) on the Starlite’s Facebook page, and I wonder whether a storm knocked it out too, or instead, since the current metal screen looks fairly modern.

I love it that the Starlite 14 has both FM radio sound and the classic (original?) in-car speakers. Tonight marked back-to-back viewings of Captain Underpants. I’ve had worse this year.

Miles Today / Total:  154 / 21970 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: Captain Underpants / 85

Nearby Restaurant: A couple of places I tried – the Cheese Cellar and the Empire Grill – were closed because it was Sunday. At least the Center Cafe was still open for a late lunch. It’s the kind of comfort food place where I could find a hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes. I knew that would keep me going until I could reach the Starlite 14 concession stand.

Where I Virtually Stayed: I was pretty happy with my stay at the Ramada here. The price was great, I had a mini fridge and microwave in my room, and solid wifi. In lieu of breakfast, I got a coupon for the attached Country Kitchen restaurant, but the room rate was low enough that it was still a great deal.

Only in Richland Center: Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright was born at Richland Center in 1867. The A. D. German Warehouse, completed in 1921, is the only building designed by Wright in the city and is an early example of his Mayan Revival style.

Next stop: Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theatres, Wisconsin Dells WI.

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