by jason fitzroy jeffers| December 16, 2013 |
Josh Frank at Blue Starlite Drive-In in Wynwood, Miami’s first drive-in movie theater
Josh Frank’s smile would light up all of Wynwood tonight were it not for the neon lights and the glow of the big screen behind him. Right now, he’s ushering cars into his new playground, the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In. As 1950s commercials for 25-cent popcorn roll before the evening’s feature, people gather at the concession stand for cotton candy laced with Pop Rocks. All the while, Frank flits from car to car, making sure the audience is settled in for the show.
“Anyone can put a movie on a screen and hook a radio up to it. What we’re trying to do is create a one-of-a-kind experience,” he says of his outdoor theater in the heart of this artsy neighborhood. “It’s all the little things that made a drive-in special.”
Blue Starlite is the latest creative adventure for Frank, who recently moved to Miami from Austin, Texas, where he had launched one of the first food trucks, just before the craze swept the country.
“The food truck really had a vintage vibe,” he says. “It led to me getting a little obsessed with finding more vintage things. That in turn led to my discovery of eBay and all the crazy stuff you could get on there. That’s where I found my first set of drive-in speakers.”
Starlite Drive-In at Wynwood
That collision of old-school cool and movie magic really got his gears going. Soon after, the first Blue Starlite Drive-In opened in an Austin alleyway.
“It was less of a business than it was an art installation,” Frank recalls. “I just wandered around junk yards and found cool stuff.” But the venture was an instant success, one he is the now re-creating in Miami. There’s room for almost 25 cars, but walk-ins, bicycles, lawn chairs, and blankets are encouraged.
Fittingly, Blue Starlite sits next door to O Cinema, a haven for local film buffs, but Frank says he intends to keep the focus on old favorites (think Pretty in Pink and Grease).
“There’s a [fan] element,” he says. “Maybe you’ve seen some of these movies a million times, but if we’re showing [a film], you’re going to see it with all the other people whose favorite movie it is. It brings you back to the first time you saw it.” At the end of the night, once the credits roll, Frank makes the rounds again and waves people out. He’s still beaming, and from the looks of it, it’s contagious.
“People smile when they drive in, and they’re smiling when they drive out,” he says. “I feel really great about that.” 70 NW 29th St., Miami