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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas and Theatres   » #15931: Starlite Drive-In Theater; Minot, ND

Author Topic: #15931: Starlite Drive-In Theater; Minot, ND
Carroll H. Rasch
New Member

Posts: 25
From: Saint Louis Park, MN
Registered: Apr 2005

 - posted May 10, 2005 09:18 AM      Profile for Carroll H. Rasch   Email Carroll H. Rasch         Edit/Delete Post 
This is a 1995 Terraserver photo of the location of the Starlite Drive-In Theater on the south edge of Minot, ND. This photo is outdated since a gas station and storage rental facility now have obliterated most of the "fan shaped" ridges apparent in this arial photo. (Cars used to pull up on these ridges to make the screen more visible, esp. for people in the back seat...who would not be watching the movie in a few minutes anyway....<chuckle>)
The screen is still standing though very difficult to see in the Terraserver picture. Trust me. It was there on April 24, 2005. The outdoor theater on the north edge of town, across Highway 83 from the Minot International Airport is no longer visible due to development on the site. The fan shaped ridges on which cars parked are no longer visible.

The Starlite was an interesting venue. It was the last of the two outdoor theaters to be built. (At the lattitude of Minot, the summer light is not gone until 11:00 PM... Both outdoor theaters were oriented so that the cars faced roughly toward the sunset so that the business side of the screen was the darkest. The were also on the west side of north-south US Highway 83 so that passing cars could see if the feature had started yet or for just plain, basic advertising. There were always freeloaders parked on the roads outside of the fence..."previewing...or watching the "good parts" and leaving. The features would start at dusk...the sky still somewhat light. It was a difficult call for parents to allow boys to take their daughters to the "outdoors" because the "date" started so late. A midnight curfew was so unrealistic. There were problems with kids "making out" in the cars. I am sure that parents complained because the theater on the north edge of town would sometimes dispatch an attendant to tap on windows to break up couples in a clinch. They were also out to send junior high kids back into their cars because games of tag sometimes broke out among the cars... Also, some young boys were very interested in the activities inside the cars... Refreshments were offered in the front end of a building also containing the projectors...The skill of finding your car on a crowded night was something you had to develop. Conversations and friendships and "who are you here with?" conversations would break out and delay returns to cars.... The speaker would announce that everyone should return to their cars because the feature would be starting in five minutes. There was often another break between the commercials for local jewelry stores (engagement rings), the cartoons and one or two previews and the feature as the outdoor theater manager stalled for a darker sky.... cars would start tooting their horns to influence the projectionist to begin...Sometimes someone would turn on their headlights during the feature to prank or annoy the crowd... with a few car horns threatening the perpetrator... As movies began to get "hotter" in the 1960s, neighbors would complain that their children were getting out of bed to watch the images over the back fence. Prudish wives of drivers in passing cars would complain... I am sure that sometimes hubby might pass the theater several times hoping to see Monroe straddling the subway air shaft... (in a world before TIVO and the cultural anesthetics of our time "going out for a drive" after dinner was a major entertainment... unless "Uncle Milty" and "You bet your Life" etc. kept us at home and away from "The Outdoor."

In the days before SUVs there was a vehicle called a "van." They were also called panel enclosed back with double doors...plumbers loved them. Teens in my neighborhood owned two of them. On "Buck Night" you could bring in your whole family and pay only one dollar for everyone in the car. That was, of course, a challenge to teen agers. We would see how many we could pack into the Van... On regular nights, when admission was charged "by the head," we would always stash Eddie Ziebarth and Butch Jacobson in the trunk and release them at our leisure. There was always the problem of one or two people lying on the floor or ducking down. It was the loathsome job of the girl selling tickets to call people on this or make a guess at the honesty of the driver's count. On cool evenings wives and girlfriends ask if the car could please be started and the heater turned on. Cuddling was sometimes not enough that far north. Taller vehicles were asked to park in the rear of the theater parking area so the height of their vehicles would not block sight lines. Talking in the car was always a problem.... driving off before the speaker was taken off the car and replaced on the speaker post was always a problem. The cord would always break before the window broke and "Outdoors" were always replacing them. I am guessing it was a major cost of running the place. Somebody would also have to walk the ground the next day...if the manager could afford it..and pick up as much refuse as possible...

Ok, you are a dad and your daughter is exploring the edges of her friendships with boys and the boys are.... well, would you have let your daughter go to "the Outdoor" with a boy in 1957? It was a tough call.

These memories come to me about the Minot Outdoor Theter on the north side of town on the road to Minot Air Force Base and Canada...80 miles away... On some special nights, one was aware of major activity at the Base... the F-102s or F-106s would streak into the sky... The B-52s on the "Ready Alert" pad would lift off 12 seconds apart and break right and left, carrying multiples of the heat of the surface of the sun in their bellies...KC-135s would rise to fuel the assault...and everything that could spread its wings and fly would take off.... Was it an "Alert?" Or, was this the "Real Thing?" Our eyes would pull away from Doris Day and Rock's dilemas to the clouds of smoke traiing from the engines that made it safe for us to grow up this way...Maybe this was our last chance. We would joke about it..but, it was always an excuse for a really warm kiss because this might be "our last chance." I am part of the generation that blamed all of its bad behavior on "The Bomb."

"Why are you kids like this? Why don't you behave? What is wrong with you? What are you rebelling against? (Brando would have said, "What have you got?"

My cohort said, "Gee Mom, its the BOMB... We have no future... we have to do it all now..." And "the Outdoor" was the best place to get in some practice. I had a guy friend named Mati who would even pop the door handles off the door on the rear passenger side door so that the girl could not easily escape... While I knew him, none of the door handles on my dad's Fords on that side stayed properly attached. When he got into the car, he always checked to see how easily it popped off.
(Hey, if I don't write a novel, I have to write this down somewhere.....I also have to confess that 96% of these memories are set at #15930, The Minot Drive-In Theater on the north side of town, which was the older and also designated as #15929 as I remember it...a name change.)
I remember that it exhibited a lot of fine, first run films like "David and Lisa" and "L Shaped Room." The reason was that the Orpheum, Strand and State theaters were already closed and the Empire Theater and the Minot Drive-In (also known as the Hilltop) were the only competitors. The Empire was a very large and lovely venue and presented only one, first run movie at a time. (I sat in row 5 in the center for all showings of "Bridge on the River Kwai" for two days.)


As Colonel Saitu used to say: "Be Happy In Your Work."



[thumbs up]

From another internet site...scroll down. The second picture is the Starlite in Minot...

[ May 12, 2005, 09:35 AM: Message edited by: Carroll H. Rasch ]

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Adam Martin

Posts: 1090
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Feb 2003

 - posted May 10, 2005 09:53 AM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin         Edit/Delete Post 
The link you posted was *way* too long for the forum software to handle. Sorry.

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