How to Attach a Movie Screen to a School Bus

April 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Wanted to share an update to the Blue Starlite Drive-in.  Since we began showing the movies on E.6th in Austin we’ve had to laboriously piece together the screen for every showing.

Our screen is a great 9′ x 22′ heavy white tarp that is secured on all four sides with elastic ball straps. The original frame was of 1″ metal conduit that stood the screen roughly four foot from the ground.

Setting up and breaking down after every show was, of course, not fun. Every week I felt we were slowly making the screen’s support weaker and making matters worse was the screen still needed to be anchored to something solid so as to not blow away. And the screen just sat way too low to the ground, seeing that we wanted to fit more cars onto our drive-in lot.

Always looking to improve on the drive-in experience we looked towards a solution with what we had on hand.  So, add in an old school bus that was on site, some clever changes to our frame, and some tie-downs and sandbags we found ourselves the improvement!

Here are some photos:

With some recommissioning of the existing screen frame we anchored the screen to the bus, making successful a number of things.  One, is the screen doesn’t need anchoring. Two, it sits up higher. Three, the setup time is so much quicker and easier (with a little getting over my fear of heights and having to stretch a bit).

I’m super proud of this little move, and after finishing the second week – it has to be pulled out of the bus or fly away.


Abandoned Drive-ins of Texas

April 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

During this last week I found an awesome drive-in movie blog that I wanted to share – I think whoever is working on this is a pure genius. What they’re doing is wandering around the state of Texas in search of old abandoned drive-ins. In Texas alone there are hundreds of drive-ins that once were, and several that still are holding on – mostly in the larger cities of Houston and Dallas. What this blog is trying to capture are the remnants of the many Texas drive-ins that can still be seen and to document what still exists of the dead and gone ones.

I have done another drive-in post for the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in located in Austin, where I also work occasionally (book us for parties or check us out at!), and this blog certainly inspires in my quest for understanding why drive-ins are so terrific. In the state of Texas alone there are reportedly the remains (in all states of condition including wiped off the map) of 404 abandonded drive-ins. Not to be totally doomsday about the drive-in, there are still roughly 17 still operating in the state. This site has a great catalogue of all the drive-in of Texas, and any state.

Ok, so the blog is really my pet project that I’ve been meaning to get started on since moving to Texas in August. The first drive-in I recorded was the Starlite Theater outside the town of Brenham. It was a fun trip and I’m looking forward to doing many others. The next drive-in venture will be at the Old 87 Drive-in located in Fredericksburg. So, if interested in what happens, check out my other blog. I won’t update it on a schedule, because I just cannot be that punctual with everything.

Blue Starlite Drive In

January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have questions that at times take years and years to unravel. Before coming to a point where that question can be understood and possibly solved, I have normally continued to some other equally dire distraction. However, one I return to periodically is a beast I know as a drive-in movie theatre.

Yes, the type of drive-in Michael J. Fox runs his Delorean into on Back to the Future III, the place where anyone over 45 had their first heavy makeout session, and where anyone under 45 wishes they could have their first makeout session.

Why are they so terrific? Why are there none around anymore? When will they make an official comeback? Should they even make a comeback? Why do we need drive-ins?

Well, it’s more than one question I guess.

Drive-in theaters, also called ozoners, today are above all else the ultimate delivery nostalgia. They’re nostalgic because not many are around anymore and yet their mere existence is embedded in our past and contemporary culture. Somewhere in the late 80’s (I blame bucket seats and Reagan) the ozoner lost it’s audience of teenagers and families. The clunky huge, four screen, 1200 car drive-ins out in the countryside became ripe for the growing hunger of 90’s urban sprawl, namely housing divisions and super communities. Cars became bigger, we all got bigger televisions in our media rooms, and entertainment became a very private and isolated pastime. We lost the fun of making a “night of it”, getting all the blankets and chairs into the back of our pickup and sitting under the stars half watching the movie and half interacting with our friends, family, and perfect strangers a car next to us. It was just no fun I guess – or the idea of fun was misplaced.

Well don’t look now, but the drive-in experience is kind of making a viable comeback. In Austin Texas, the drive-in has found a home in the heart of the city – at the Blue Starlite Drive-in. This is not your granddad’s drive-in though. At the Blue Starlite Drive-in you can enjoy all the things that made the drive-in incredibly awesome, and you can throw in some new twists for free. The fresh air, the buzz of community, the enormous screen with Austin as it’s backdrop, the vintage speakers, the stars overhead, the popcorn, and the double feature. It’s enough to make anyone pine for the simpler times of 1950’s high school, classic cars, and that first kiss.

Of course, to live in nostalgia is super cheesy and the Cleavers are far from the family that I truly identify with, but I do think the drive-in offers a link seeded in a deep cultural psyche of many people. The drive-in was an extension of freedom and at the same time a fear/excitement of adulthood. Drive-ins are one of the few places where that universal process is central to the experience.

I’m sure the drive-in will never capture the landscape as it did 80 years ago, but here in Austin I think it can capture a small bit of the urban landscape. That’s right, to hell with noise ordinances and Hummers. Now with two locations, one on E.6th and the original on Cesar Chavez Blvd, the Blue Starlite is entering the fray of an American tradition. And it’s doing so by updating it, Richard Hollingshead is probably rolling in his perfectly angled grave at not patenting this idea.

The owner of the Blue Starlite, Josh, took it upon himself to hunt down outdoor speakers and paraphanelia from online, paint the side of a building white, buy a projector and trailer, and run an urban boutique drive-in. I love this on so many levels. The time is right, the place is right, and the drive-in is right. People are looking for genuine experiences, and they are finding drive-ins a perfect fit for an alternative and cheap way to get out and enjoy some freedom and adulthood making.

So I have a new question.

What’s better than watching Teen Wolf under the stars with a crackly old speaker hanging precariously inside your car ?


It’s an exciting time in Austin, the drive-in is coming back reincarnated after being gone for decades. Check out the website for all the details on showtimes, prices, and renting them out for a private event.

Blue Starlite Website

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