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In its 60 years, change has come slowly to Christiansburg’s Starlite Drive-In Theater, and that’s the way people like it.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
This year, the Starlite Drive-In Theater celebrates its 60th anniversary. But when the Christiansburg business started in 1953, staying open for that long was never part of the plan for owners Richard and Dorothy Beasley.
The idea was to work there for no more than 25 years.
“Once it kind of took off and did as well as it did, they kind of just went ahead with it,” said Peggy Beasley, the couple’s daughter and the current owner of the Starlite.
Since its opening, few things have changed at the Starlite. Movies are shown twice a night on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from about Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. A half hour before each show, a line of people waiting for the Starlite’s famous hot dogs forms at the snack bar.
It wasn’t until last year that the theater stopped using an old-fashioned film projector; it converted to a digital projection system that the major movie studios are now using. Instead of dealing with the “cumbersome” projectors, workers only have to push a button to start a movie. The Starlite can also show first-run movies.
But that’s about as digital as it gets for the drive-in. Peggy Beasley has resisted overhauling the moviegoer’s experience. You can’t buy tickets online, and it’s cash-only at the ticket window. The venue’s only Web presence comes from a volunteer monitoring the website and Facebook page, which has more than 6,200 likes.
After spending a lifetime around the Starlite, Peggy is in charge of the community favorite’s future. And although the drive-in has been a large part of her life, she said she doesn’t have a favorite movie that she can remember watching at the family business. She prefers to keep busy working on other things once the cars fill the lot and the screen comes to life.
“I don’t ever watch a movie here,” Peggy Beasley said. “I’m in the snack bar working.”
Karen Clark Nagy, who assists with the Starlite’s online presence, attends a movie at the drive-in nearly every weekend.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” Nagy said. “ It’s that stepping back in time that I think really is what draws people.
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