Aug. 10: Star View Drive In Theatre, Norwalk OH

It’s Day 222 of my virtual Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey. There were some nice diagonal highways pointed in my direction so my drive from the Hi-Road Drive In north of Kenton OH to the Star View Drive In Theatre just outside of Norwalk OH only took an hour and a half.

Once again, Cinema Treasures has some drive-in history that I can’t find anywhere else. The Star View (often written as Starview over the years) opened on October 1, 1949. It was owned by Jerry Steele and Lou Ratener and managed by Ernest Plitz. Gordon Evans became manager in 1955 when Plitz left to manage a drive-in chain in Florida. In September of 1956, Steele bought out Ratener’s interest in the drive-in theatre.

The Star View has a capacity of 520 cars with in-car speakers and (these days) radio sound. In its early years, one promotion to attract patrons during the fall was to give them a coupon for one gallon of gas at the nearby gas station, but only if the temperature fell below 50 (later 40) degrees. On May 17, 1953, the top of the wooden screen tower burst into flames during a show. (There’s an amazing color photo at Cinema Treasures.) Patrons were given ‘fire checks’ for another show. The wooden screen tower was rebuilt.

In 1957, Jerry’s son Bill Steele took over the ownership and the operation of the Star View. Bill later commented about the unusual things that have happened there over the years. “One time we didn’t get the print of the movie that was supposed to be playing that night. We were lucky that it was playing at the Apollo Theatre, Oberlin also. The Highway Patrol helped us get the movie to the drive-in. After the first reel was over at the Apollo Theatre, they helped us by getting the prints to the drive-in.”

In December 1971, the wooden screen blew down. It was replaced by a steel screen tower which stands to this day. In August 2007, Bill sold the Star View property and equipment to long-time employees Steve Witter and Jan Doughty. The Drive-In has since upgraded to digital projection.

The YouTube video of the day comes from the Norwalk Reflector, which shot a short visit to the Sky View in 2008.

There’s only one screen, and in this case it meant no escape from my sixth viewing of The Emoji Movie. wrote, “Disregard that PG rating and keep your children far away from director Tony Leondis’ vile animated faux-comedy. … The Emoji Movie openly rolls its eyes at full-fledged thought, legitimizing poor communication skills by cheering on the decay of attention spans.” So it’s not just me.

Miles Today / Total:  74 / 26974 (rounded to the nearest mile)

Movie Showing / Total Active Nights: The Emoji Movie / 136

Nearby Restaurant: I came to the Casa Fiesta because I hadn’t had any Mexican food for a few days. It’s got some Mexican dishes, but I was surprised at how often Cajun appeared on the menu. After my chips and salsa, I feasted on turkey and sausage jambalaya. It was a little offbeat, but it worked.

Where I Virtually Stayed: The Best Western Norwalk won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, and once I stayed there, I learned why. The staff was friendly. My room had the full set of amenities including solid wifi. Breakfast was great, with biscuits and gravy, eggs, plus all the continental regulars. I wish that every Best Western was as good as this one.

Only in Norwalk: The Firelands Museum in Norwalk is Ohio’s oldest museum, commemorating the Firelands tract at the western end of the Connecticut Western Reserve, intended as financial restitution for residents of Connecticut towns burned by British forces during the Revolutionary War. The Museum started on the second floor of a Carnegie library and grew and evolved ever since.

Next stop: Sundance Kid Drive-In, Oregon OH.