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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » Starlite D-I, Roseburg, OR

Author Topic: Starlite D-I, Roseburg, OR
Matt Lutthans

Posts: 51
From: Marysville, WA
Registered: Dec 2003

 - posted April 19, 2008 10:02 PM      Profile for Matt Lutthans   Email Matt Lutthans         Edit/Delete Post 
I am so bummed I just learned of this!


Starlite Drive-In's final showing

First opened in 1954, beloved drive-in will project memories one last time Friday

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Movie event organizers, from left, Sheri Roberts, Sherry Dunnihoo, Tammy Rondeau, and Tonya Theiss-Skrip, look at a film strip while touring the projection room at the Starlite Drive-In this morning.
JON AUSTRIA / N-R staff photo

September 27, 2007

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The last time Keith Welty worked a movie at the Starlite Drive-In Theatre was Sept. 2, 1997.

As with any drive-in theater worth its salt, a double feature was on tap: the spy-thriller “Face/Off” with John Travolta and Nicholas Cage and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz.

Welty, the drive-in’s manager, was more than a little sad as the last cars exited the drive-in located a few yards east of Interstate 5 at Green. He had literally grown up at the Starlite, watching his first movie at age 5 and seeing countless others over the years. He spent eight years as manager of the Starlite and the companion indoor theater.

The Starlite opened July 23, 1954. The first film shown was the World War II drama “Beachhead” with Tony Curtis, Frank Lovejoy and Mary Murphy. At the time, the Starlite had space for 1,500 cars.

Ever since the drive-in closed, the oversized white painted screen — with a picture area of 60 feet by 100 feet, once the largest drive-in screen in Oregon — has remained dark.

The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians bought the drive-in property in 1999. It sat dormant until last year, when the tribe allowed Umpqua Community College to use it as the site of its Construction Technology Center.

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John Cox, a groundskeeper for Umpqua Community College, trims the grass along a fence at the Starlite Drive-In Theatre in Green Wednesday morning. The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians will present a private screening of ‘Grease’ at the theater on Friday, with proceeds going to UCAN and the Boys & Girls Club.
ANDY BRONSON / N-R staff photo
On Friday evening, the tribe plans one last celluloid fling. The tribe will host a charity showing of “Grease,” the 1978 musical with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, for an estimated crowd of at least 700 guests.

“We thought that we would choose “Grease” because it covered a broad spectrum of interests because of the time,” said Michael Rondeau, the tribe’s operations manager.

The movie was director Randal Kleiser’s adaptation of the Broadway hit about teenage angst in 1950s America.

The screening was prompted by the deterioration of the drive-in screen. It has reached the point where it needs to be repaired or torn down, Rondeau said. Tribal officials decided it should come down.

The tribe considered several options in arranging the show. Officials ended up sending out invitations to 350 people to keep the crowd manageable. They didn’t want to have to turn away cars after the parking space filled and cause those who couldn’t get inside to leave mad.

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Old Starlite Drive-In Theatre speaker phones gather rust at the Green facility. The drive-in’s last movie will be shown Friday as a fundraiser. Old speakers will also be raffled off.
ANDY BRONSON / N-R staff photo
Although there is no admission charge, those who do attend are asked to bring two cans of food along with the ticket included with the invitation. Four people coming in one vehicle, for example, would need to bring eight cans of food.

All of the food collected will be given to the Umpqua Community Action Network. That organization and the Boys & Girls Club will share the proceeds from the sale of hot dogs, popcorn, nachos and pop. There will also be a raffle for some of the old drive-in car speakers that generations of movie watchers hung on their car windows.

“The tribe has always had a concern about hunger and we fear this winter may be especially hard on a lot of people. We hope this will help,” said Sue Shaffer, the tribe’s chairwoman.

Welty now serves as a regional manager for Coming Attractions Theaters, overseeing nine screens between Roseburg and Aberdeen, Wash. He said he’s excited to be able to return to the Starlite for one last show, although the experience will be bittersweet.

“It’s kind of a double-edge sword. I’m excited that there will be another show but sad that the screen will come down. It’s like another nail in the coffin,” Welty said.

• You can reach reporter John Sowell at 957-4209 or by e-mail at

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