If you’re no stranger to drive-in’s and have grown up in the city and surrounding areas, then heading to Starlite Drive In Theatre will likely bring back a lot of memories and nostalgia. It’s been around for more than half a century, opening up some time in the mid 50’s with just one viewing screen.
In 2004 Premier Theatres, who owns six other drive-ins in Canada (from Newmarket’s Stardust Theatre to Yellowknife’s Capitol Theatre), bought the single screen drive-in and in 2007 and 2008 they added two more screens. It now boasts three viewing screens that show double movie features nightly.
Twice a year Starlite features at least two “Dusk ’til Dawns” which play four movies per screen, and every long weekend they usually do a triple feature. Last year the theatre partnered up with a group that loved old school horror movies and they had a Horror Night. Keep your eyes out for that, as they’ll be doing it again (if they haven’t already) before the summer is out.
Despite growing up in the suburbs and in an era where cars reigned supreme, it wouldn’t be a lie to admit that I’d never gone to the drive-in.
This summer I decided to check this off my long standing Hamilton (and life) bucket list by checking out Starlite Drive In Theatre in Stoney Creek.
I went on a Saturday night in mid July to see Spiderman and Baby Driver. The movie’s start time was for 9:15pm, and we arrived 30 minutes before the show started (plenty of time to leave for heading to a regular theatre but definitely not enough time for a drive-in). There was a long line up of cars to get through the box office, which moved at a steady pace. As we entered the theatre grounds you could see family’s set up in the backs of pick-up trucks and vans, out on lawn chairs, or throwing a ball, playing catch. There was a substantial crowd of little kids running around on a playground that was stationed just off to the side of Screen 1. Kids in pajamas were biding their time until the sun set (way past their bedtime) to settle in for a summer movie viewing treat.
We parked the car just in time for dusk, and rushed out to get our popcorn and snacks from the concession. It was rammed, with a line-up that trailed out the door. We waited while the films started up on the screens. Despite the line-up and the films starting before we were settled and cozy in the car, I was completely in awe, just taking it all in, people watching, noting the vintage vibe of everything and deciding what from the plethora of offerings from the snack bar I would order. The concession has everything from funnel cake, pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, chili cheese dogs, pogos, and poutine, plus the usual movie snack fare (classically staffed by a roster of top notch high school students, likely from the surrounding area).
From my observations of the long-time pros, I decided that for next time I should arrive as soon as the box office opens, get a primo parking spot, order dinner from the concession (plus my popcorn and snacks for later) way before the movie starts, and bring a lawn chair and blankets for the ultimate viewing experience. All of those steps would’ve definitely resulted in a more complete drive-in experience. I’m a novice, so don’t judge if you already knew to do all that.
I couldn’t tell if it was my eyes, the lingering light in the sky, or the fact that Spiderman (the movie we saw) took place mostly at night (with dark lighting) but it was hard to make out certain parts of the movie as the projection seemed to be dark. Because I went mostly for the experience and not necessarily for the movie itself, it didn’t bother me too much. I could see how for some die hard film buffs this would be a problem.
Starlite is open from mid-march to mid to late November. Plenty of time to get in another movie (or two) at the drive-in.
General Admission -$11
Kids (5-12 years old) -$2
4 Years and under -Free!
Tuesday Special -$7
Thursday Car load -$18
Holiday Prices (3 features) -$12
4 Features -$13