Sad news. The Starlight Drive-In, which sits about halfway between St. Henry and Maria Stein OH, won’t reopen this year. Its owner, who was still posting movie information notes on the Starlight’s Facebook page May 8, died suddenly on May 10. According to his obituary, Dan Myers, 72, had operated the Starlight Drive-In since 1988.
Elaine Myers posted to Facebook the next day, “We are sorry to announce that the Starlight Drive-In Rt.127 119 will not be open this season.” It had been scheduled to open May 26.
I wrote more extensively about the Starlight when I paid it a virtual visit in 2017. Back then, Mr. Myers had found enough cash to convert to digital projection even though his GoFundMe appeal fell short. “If you’re ever in the area of grand Lake St. Mary’s in Ohio stop in and say hi,” he wrote. I’m sorry I never got the chance to do that.
Nothing is as important as the passing of a family member. Although it makes me feel guilty, I hope that after the Myers folks work through the emotions and practicalities of the situation, they can find someone to operate the Starlight for the benefit of all of its patrons.
Ghoulish? Maybe. In an April full of stories about drive-ins reopening for another season, I’m relaying one about the final day of a retired screen.
The Sunset Drive-In in Ontario OH closed in 2015, and Joe Lykins bought the property in 2019. Lykins disassembles old barns and uses their vintage wood to build new structures, and he needed room to work. According to the Mansfield News Journal, Lykins recently needed to add a retaining pool to the property, and that meant the screen had to go. The newspaper captured a fine video of the screen-toppling last week.
In the accompanying news story, Lykins said the drive-in wasn’t economically viable. He tried to give away the screen, but had no takers. “People are going to hate me,” he said.
According to Cinema Treasures, the drive-in opened in 1947 as the Mansfield-Galion. It was renamed the Sunset before the 1953 season. It persisted as a family-owned business until the movie studios’ digital imperative required theaters to buy expensive new projectors or close. The Sunset chose to go dark when film ran out.
There are more details and photos about this somber story at the News Journal site. If you’d like to know more, go read it!
Michael Cole of Findlay OH has purchased the venerable Tiffin Drive-In (the Tiffin OH drive-in known for a few years as the Field of Dreams) and plans lots of renovations. The news comes to us via WTOL, Toledo’s News Leader.
Cole said his first order of business will be to demolish the screen tower that has stood since the drive-in opened in 1949. “Repairing it was really out of the question,” he said, and although I hate to see something that old taken down, I suppose it’s smart to be proactive instead of waiting for it to fail. Cole plans to replace it with a new screen and tower, then do the same to the second screen added by Rod and Donna Saunders just a few years ago. For a longer history of the Tiffin / Field of Dreams, check out my virtual visit there three years ago.
With all the is-it-open and temporary-popup news these days, it’s nice to be able to share something real with you this time. And I’m always on the lookout for video that captures the drive-in experience. I hope you enjoy it!