The Starlite Drive-In Theater on Route 125 outside Amelia has recently installed a new digital projector. The new projector plays movies stored on a hard drive instead of 35 mm film.
The move to digital projection was one made out of necessity. Movie studios will stop producing film later this year and switch to all hard drive. The move will save studios a considerable amount of money, though small drive-ins are threatened by this change.
New digital projectors can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Only four companies currently produce the kind of projector required. Starlite’s new projector was manufactured by Barco, a Belgian company established in 1934.
Besides this initial cost, there are also extra costs for storage of the hard drives and maintenance of the projector.
“We have to change the filters regularly,” said Starlite manager Ken Aultz said. “We still have limited lamp life. One lamp will last us about 500 hours. After that, we have to replace it. We used to get a lot more hours out of our lamps the old way.”
The new system, while expensive, is an improvement over the old projection system. The projector has its own generator so that, in case of a power outage, the movie will continue to play. Movies can also begin before dark, due to the increased brightness of the image.
“The picture is excellent,” Aultz said. “The image is brighter and sharper and the stability is perfect.”
The Starlite Drive-In opened in 1947 and is now in its 66th year of operation. According to the United Drive-In Theaters of America, it is one of 357 operating drive-in theaters in the country and one of 29 in Ohio. Ohio is tied with New York for the second most number of drive-in theaters, with Pennsylvania taking the top spot with 30 different locations.
“We get a great combination of regular customers and newcomers,” said current owner Debbie Brooks. Brooks has owned the Starlite Drive-In for about 20 years. She is the third owner of the theater.
“Our concessions are like the old time concessions,” she said. “We have hot dogs, pizza, and pretzels and more. We also have a playground for the kids.”
Brooks also said they host events such as wedding anniversary celebrations, birthday parties, and class reunions.
The Starlite Drive-In box office and concessions opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8:15 the rest of the week. Tickets for adults 12 and over are $8.50, tickets for children 4-11 are $5 and active military, firemen, police, and seniors over 60 ticket prices are $6.50. Children three and under get in for free.
For more information on the Starlite Drive-In, visit the website at www.starlitedriveinohio.com or call (513) 734-4001 for movie times.