Starlite Drive-In shuts down

The Starlite Drive-In, a beloved drive-in theater in Wichita, Kan., has recently made it public knowledge that due to declining attendance and rapidly rising costs of maintenance and technology, they will be shutting down. 

Through a public post on their Facebook page, the owners of Starlite let its customers know that it was a difficult decision many years in the making. The owners are sad to see it go, but due to financial reasons, it was the best decision to make.

Owner Chuck Bucinski expanded on the cause for closing in an email to all of their employees.

“The theater has been in financial trouble since the digital projectors were installed,” Bucinski said.

He further bid his employees farewell by wishing them the best with their future endeavors.

According to The Wichita Eagle, Starlite opened in 1953 as the single-screen Rainbow Drive-In, and later became the two-screen Landmark Twin in 1974. Being one of the last drive in theaters in the US, Wichita natives are sad to see it go.

In an article published by USA Today, it was stated that there are only approximately 330 drive-ins left in the entire country. The experience of a drive-in theater is clearly something that not every city offers.

Customers loved the inexpensive, family friendly atmosphere. It is not uncommon to see the last of the drive-ins being forced to close. The rising cost of equipment and the loss of routine customers make it nearly impossible to stay afloat.

Drive-in theaters are losing traction because of the lack of popularity. There is nearly no interest among teenagers and young adults to attend. The primary clientel consisted of people who remembered drive-ins from their childhood and families with young kids.

The rare experience is something that not many seek out. Katie Larkin, junior mass media student likes them.

“I loved my experience,” Larkin said. “Drive-in theaters should make a come back.”

Starlite, when still in operation, played the same movies in regular theaters but at a discounted price. With the exception of a few months where film studio restrictions forced Starlite to charge customers by person, Starlite charged $13 per car. This was a far superior choice, financially, especially when you consider that customers were paying to see two to three movies.

 While not banning outside food and drink, Starlite encouraged people to purchase food at their concession stand. Concession stand revenue was the main source of income that allowed Starlite to stay open. According to Wichita on the Cheap, the concession stand was relatively inexpensive and affordable.

The sorrow extends all the way to the Washburn campus. Jennie Wilson, freshman and Wichita native, is sad to see it go.

“I went so much and loved it,” Wilson said. “It’s so sad that it’s closed.”

Starlite’s Facebook post ended by saying there will be a public auction for concession equipment, screens and other items at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13. The thought of the potential for Starlite’s legacy to continue in some fashion is enough to instill hope. Maybe this isn’t goodbye forever.