Monday, August 23, 2004

Starlite, Star Bright

The Starlite Drive-in caught fire on Sunday.

There are only a handful of drive-ins left in the state and the Starlite was the only one in the Triangle.

I saw Dragon:The Bruce Lee Story there. And the Flintstones. That's also where I saw Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (the movie).

By the time I had discovered the Starlite. the clip-on speakers had all gone, of course. The audio was broadcast via radio signal to your car radio.

The playground beneath the screen had remained, however. The equipment was rusty and the grass thigh-high. But it took little imagination to see the children that had played there over the decades.

Most of the people that I saw at the drive-in came in pick-ups. They'd back into their parking space and watch from the truck bed, with their kids. The way their parents had watched movies with them, years ago.

When I was little, I would watch drive-in movies from the backseat of the family wagon. Disney nature movies were a favourite, as were anything that had to do with horses. We saw Westerns, of course. And, since my father was a stockcar buff, we saw Thunder Road, Thunder in Carolina and any of a number of moonshine/racing movies.

Over the years, I have mourned the loss of each drive-in that I knew in Guilford County and each decrepit one that I have passed that had been turned into a flea market or self-storage.

Of course, the Starlite had turned into a flea market, as well. It also sold guns, for that matter. But it still showed movies. First-run movies, at that. On weekend nights, the neon sign would glow and I could sit outside on a muggy Summer night and remember why it was that I first fell in love with the movies.

The fire is still under investigation but, already, the owner is saying that the screen will be rebuilt.

I certainly hope so. Surrounded, as we all are, by multiplexes and art houses, I can't help but think that there is still room for a place where you can watch movies by star light.

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