Mitchell SD’s Starlite won’t reopen

Starlite Drive-In theater sign
Photo by Granola via Cinema Treasures.

Skipping over the many happy, mundane stories about drive-ins reopening for another season leaves me with the unhappy ones. This one from Mitchell’s Daily Republic, via Yahoo News, is quite sad. In 2020, the Starlite Drive-In Theatre there was a great example of a pandemic-based revival when owner Logan Luxury Theatres reopened it. Now the Starlite’s Facebook page tells the story, “It’s been a great run but all good things must come to an end.”

After a year of patronage that “came close to attendance levels in the 1970’s when drive-ins were at their peak,” business had faded for two years. That was the reason Logan gave for its decision not to reopen the Starlite this year. The post invited readers to visit “the Luxury 5 Cinemas downtown.” If I were cynical, I’d guess that once the indoor theaters were allowed to reopen, management saw the drive-in as unwanted competition.

The Starlite had closed in 2013, the year several drive-ins closed because of Hollywood’s change to digital projection. I’m glad that the folks in Mitchell were able to have an encore these past three years. Who knows, maybe enough of them will ask to bring the Starlite back to life one of these days.