Starlite Drive-in opens season with new projector
CHRISTIANSBURG — For many people in the New River Valley, summer officially kicks off when the screen at Christiansburg’s Starlite Drive-in shines with the first movie of the season.
This season – which begins today – that screen is set to shine a bit brighter.
The 59-year-old outdoor theater made the leap into the digital world this spring when its 35-mm film projector was replaced with a Barco ultra-bright digital cinema projector.
“It’s like replacing an old VW Beetle with a Lamborghini,” said John Arnold of Strong Technical Services.
Arnold, who has traveled the country for more than 18 years helping to install similar projectors, said such high-quality projects are common in theaters, but rarely seen in drive-ins.
“I’d say there’s one, maybe two, in a 200-mile radius [of Starlite],” Arnold said.
According to Arnold, the DP2K-23B model Starlite now has uses twice the power and produces four times the light of the previous projector. It’s also capable of producing a picture on the park’s 56-by-30 screen comparable to that of a Blu-ray movie on a high definition television.
It’s a difference in quality he said spectators will not only notice on opening night, but throughout the entire running of each movie.
Arnold said the digital nature of the projector eliminates the wear and tear the older projectors caused to the film, which often made the later showings of the movie poor in quality.
The cutting, splicing and winding of the film has been replaced with a touch-screen menu, which preserves the quality of the film and allows the operator to switch films or trailers almost instantly.
“With this projector, there is no comprising for quality because of technology,” Arnold said.
Such high quality often comes with an equally high price tag, which Peggy Beasley, daughter of Starlite’s founders’ Richard and Dorothy Beasley, said largely accounts for ticket prices rising $2 this season – $6 for adults and $4 for children.
Peggy Beasley declined to give the exact price of the new projector, but Arnold said the ballpark figure on similar machines was around $50,000 before installation.
“It’s costing us a lot of money, but I’m very proud of it. I’m very proud that we have enough sense to go forward and keep up with the times,” Peggy Beasley said.
“That’s progress. You got to go with it or get behind,” Dorothy Beasley agreed.
Starlite is located at 275 Starlite Drive in Christiansburg.
The open-air theater plans to feature two showings of each movie every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings throughout the summer. The first show will begin at dusk, and the second will following promptly after.
The Burgs will feature a business Q&A with the owner of Starlite Drive-In, Dorothy Beasley, Friday.