Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


The Starlite Drive-In Theatre, a Bozeman staple for decades prior to its closure in 1989, is coming back, iconic sign and all.

Filmlites Montana, a local motion picture equipment and lighting rental company, has teamed up with several other local businesses to resurrect the Starlite at its property at 6465 River Road near Four Corners.

“A lot of folks have great memories at the old drive-ins,” said JP Gabriel, who owns Filmlites and, now, Starlite. “I used to see that sign on Seventh when I would go to work.”

The Starlite Drive-In opened in Bozeman in the 1950s, showing movies off Seventh Avenue until it closed. Gabriel said he discovered the business license expired sometime in the early 90s, meaning he could register an LLC under the name Starlite.

“I wanted to, first, showcase movies that Filmlites was very much a part of making,” he said. “What we end up having is kind of a cool circle. We’re involved in making the movies, and we’d also like to share them with people.”

The first two movies Starlite will be showing are “Walking Out” on this Friday and “Ballad of Lefty Brown” on Saturday. Gabriel said his company had a heavy hand in the filming of both movies, and that he’s excited to be able to share them with the public. The theatre is scheduled to be open every other weekend in August.

The movies will be shown on a 25 foot tall LED screen, made up of 84 smaller LED screens, as opposed to a traditional drive-in projector. Audio for the movies will be broadcast via FM radio so audiences can listen from inside their cars.

Part of the massive screen is owned by Jereco Studios, and the stage that the screen will sit on on is owned by Rocky Mountain Rigging, both companies Filmlite works with often, Gabriel said.

“We’re all collaborating to make this happen,” Gabriel said.

Also involved in the reboot of Starlite is Ole Nelson, the owner of Media Station Design Works. Nelson’s sign work is visible all over Bozeman, and his portfolio includes the neon sign hanging on the front of the Rialto and the marquee on the Ellen Theatre.

The iconic yellow Starlite sign was given to Nelson in the early 2000s, under the condition that Nelson display it somewhere the public could see instead of selling it.

In August of 2019, two college students stole part of the sign from outside Nelson’s studio on Mendenhall Street, carrying it eight blocks away. But after Nelson made a police report and got a tip from social media about the sign’s whereabouts, police were able to help get it back to its rightful owner.

Tickets to both showings are available on Starlite’s website, starlitedriveinmontana.com.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.