Bad news from the Wichita Eagle, which reported today that the Starlite Drive-In Theatre has turned off its projectors for the last time. That came on the heels of this morning’s email from the Starlite which said, “This was a difficult decision many years in the making with declining attendance and rapidly rising costs of maintenance and technology.”
The Eagle wrote that owner Chuck Bucinski told his employees that “the theater has been in financial trouble since the digital projectors were installed.” Which seems odd considering that those projectors should have been at least subsidized by the community fundraising the Starlite mounted at the time, when it was still owned by Jim Goble. That’s all according to the article, which said Bucinski bought the place in 2016.
Just a few months ago, Bucinski filed to change the Starlite’s zoning to allow for industrial and commercial uses for the drive-in land. At the time, he said the move was “strictly for estate-planning purposes”.
It’s a darned shame that Wichita is going to lose its only drive-in to ozoners’ eternal enemy – a landowner with more profitable plans for his property. Since that email suggested that the decision had been made a long time ago, it’s doubly sad that that loyal viewers were denied the opportunity to say goodbye in a farewell season, which would have boosted attendance and possibly boosted some sympathy for Bucinski. Instead, if he’s remembered at all, he’ll be known as the guy who turned out the lights at the Starlite.