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Drive-in theater creates new ways to entertain customers as attendance falls from peak of pandemic

The Blue Starlite Urban Drive-in saw four times the number of usual customers during the peak of the pandemic. Now, they say customer numbers are leveling out.

AUSTIN, Texas — During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in movie theaters saw an influx of new customers.

"For a year, they got to live in the '50s like their grandparents, or their great grandparents,” said Josh Frank, owner of the Blue Starlite Urban Drive-in. “And to me, that is the greatest thing that we can come out of this with."

During the height of the pandemic, Frank said the Blue Starlite Drive-in had four times the number of customers than they were used to.

"I went from seven employees to 25 employees, and we had at least four to five private events a week,” shared Frank.

That’s because, for much of the pandemic, they were one of the only theaters open in all of Central Texas.

"That was really weird,” said Frank. “To open the paper and see just the Blue Starlite show movies in Austin, I never imagined that."

Now, he says fewer people are coming to the drive-in. He was prepared for this to happen but told KVUE it is still tough.

"Not so much a hard time in that things have slowed in some horrible way,” said Frank. “They just have kind of gone back to normal a little, but better."

With a dinner theater, a forest theater for scary movies, and a beach theater inspired by his son's love for the movie "Moana," Frank is constantly pushing his creativity.

"The idea has always been, for the decade that I've been doing this, is to take the drive-in experience and just see what you can do with it,” Frank said with a smile.

There are three Blue Starlite locations in the Austin area, and this Friday, the downtown location will start playing new Hollywood movies on a brand-new, 40-foot screen.

"You get a 360 view of the city and you're going to get to see new movies,” said Frank. “We're really excited about that."

As for the future, Frank is not expecting the huge numbers of people he saw at the height of the pandemic, but hopes the memories made from the front seat of a car will stay with people for years to come.

"Things are kind of going to go back to a certain amount of normal,” said Frank. “But drive-ins are going to have a new place in a whole new group of people's hearts, that it never would have."

To buy tickets to a movie at one of the Blue Starlite’s three Austin-area locations, click here.

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