For some, going to the drive-in is a distant, nostalgic memory. Others have never experienced watching a film in their car. Either way, Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In is looking to re-imagine the movie experience at its new location in Palmetto Bay.
On Friday, the drive-in made its soft debut at its new locale, featuring the classic film Grease. People of all ages showed up for the theater’s inauguration.
The new drive-in will fit 45 cars, 20 more than before in Coconut Grove, said Eric Haas, who owns the property where the new drive-in is located, as well as Sports Grill restaurants.
Jenny Valdes and Rosemary Lopez, friends for 18 years, sat on a lawn and watched the film, hoping to meet people in their community. For Valdes’ daughter, Melissa Acosta, 21, it was her first time seeing Grease and being at a drive-in.
“It’s something from the old times,” said Lopez, 42. “I wanted her to see how we grew up, and the things we used to do that were fun. I love musicals, and I love Grease so hopefully she can experience this and love it too. It’s good to try something new. It’s such a nice area but there’s nothing to do around here unless you drive to Broward or Wynwood, so I’m glad that they’re bringing it down here.”
Josh Frank, the drive-in’s owner and operator, said he is creating a unique and intimate experience.
“The drive-in became almost extinct because of modern technology. What’s really fascinating is how its come full circle. The drive-in has come around as a perfect compliment because this old way of watching movies is still relevant. It solves modern problems since times have changed,” said Frank, 40. “People can now roll up their windows and take a call if they need to or they can pull out their tablet and look up info on the movie they’re watching without bothering anyone, or because they spend so much time walking around with their phones, they can engage with people in their cars in ways they can’t at other entertainment environments.”
The theater is also mixing new school with old-school flair by providing a small number of reservable retro drive-in speakers to its guests, as well as the widely used FM radio station option to tune in and listen to the film. The projection booth is a converted red 1950s Chevy Pickup Truck streaming movies onto a 30-by 19-foot waterproof screen. Adding to the drive-in’s nostalgic feel are features like the truck’s replica Back to the Future OUTATIME license plate. Vintage movie previews play as people settle into their cars, and the concession stand trailer serves classic treats, such as Pop Rocks and s’mores.
Across the street from the theater is a Starbucks and Sir Pizza for guests to order food and use the facilities if needed, although there are portable bathrooms on site.
For Valentines weekend, The Princess Bride will have multiple showings, and this month’s schedule will include a David Bowie tribute night. For next month, Frank is planning marathons of Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman and Batman to keep the content fresh for all audiences.
Blue Starlite is also encouraging local moviemakers to collaborate with them to showcase their films. At its flagship location in Austin, the Blue Starlite hosts special nights to screen independent movies and wants the trend to catch on in Miami.
“Our staples are classic culture films, but anyone that wants to work with us to bring other types of film to the drive-in and bring their community and use the Blue Starlite as a venue is something we’d love. I don’t know why people don’t take more advantage of this,” Frank said. “ At the Austin location we got an email from the Women In Horror Society, and I said, ‘Great!’ And now we show their films on Sunday nights. Whenever someone comes to me with a program idea that they would like to host, or they would like to pull together, I am very excited to try and make it happen. I encourage it.”
Blue Starlite wants to create a fun personalized and positive experience at its theater and takes customer service, as it’s top priority. Frank personally greets and directs each car into the lot because he says he wants patrons to know how happy he is that they are there.
“When a car shows up we take them through every step to make sure they are set up and comfortable,” Frank said. “Our goal is to get every guest that comes to the drive-in to feel as much joy and excitement as we feel running it. We want to give people a special night, and we’re trying to change people’s expectations for the kind of special evening they can have in Miami.”
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If you go
▪ What: Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In
▪ Where: 7271 SW 168th St., Palmetto Bay (new location)
▪ Reservations are strongly encouraged and feature times vary. Tickets start at $10. For info visit http://bluestarlitemiami.vbotickets.com/events