Drive-in theater offers Potter fans a new way to see the films

Alex Pelham

Without broomsticks or floo powder available, Harry Potter fans will drive to The Blue Starlite Drive-In theater this weekend to re-experience the wizarding world.

The Blue Starlite Drive-In theater will host their second Annual Harry Potter Fest at the Drive-In, which runs from Nov. 5-22. The three-week marathon will show double features of all eight films every night, meaning fans can catch “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets” on the opening night, or go on the closing night to see both parts of “Deathly Hallows.” Fans can purchase tickets for individual screenings or purchase a special “Potter Pass” that grants access to any showing.

“We started coming up for ideas for more cinematic celebrations at the drive-in,” said Blue Starlite owner Josh Frank. “Normally November is really slow, but we sold out every night. People just really loved it.”

Preparation for the event has not been without issues. Last Friday, a tornado ripped through the drive-in and destroyed part of the theater. Despite this setback, Blue Starlite manager Christopher Dyer said that the show will go on as planned.

“The tornado flipped over our screen,” Dyer said. “We had to spend the last two days fixing everything.”

The idea for the theater came after Frank crafted a small drive-in theater for his and his girlfriend’s six-month anniversary. His girlfriend, who’s now his wife, suggested people would be interested in seeing films at a drive-in. After a successful test run, Frank eventually created the business. He said while he acknowledges that nostalgia plays a big role in drawing audience, he thinks the Blue Starlite offers a special environment that’ll keep people coming back for more. 

“I thought people would come, think it was cute, and that would be it,” Frank said. “It turns out that the experience we created is something people want to return for. I feel we’re bringing that nostalgia, but we’ve created our own atmosphere, and I think that’s what people come for.”

Frank said the first Potter Fest served as a test for special “event nights” at the drive-in, and it eventually sold out. Frank and his employees got into the spirit by serving Potter-themed treats and dressing up in costumes. Blue Starlite plans to top the first festival by doubling the decorations and special events related to the wizarding world, which includes building a “Dementor” and creating a “Diagon Alley” space where local artists can come and sell their art. 

Frank said that the highlight of the festival is giving Potter fans a way to see the films from a different perspective.

“You’re seeing it on a 35-foot screen,” Frank said. “You’re seeing it with the skyline of Austin in the distance. I can’t think of a better place and time to be watching them than our drive-in in November.”

Radio-television-film senior Akayla Lewis said seeing films at the drive-in gives her the freedom to openly discuss them with friends while watching them, unlike in regular theaters.

“You’re in your own little bubble, so you can talk to your friends about things without disturbing other people,” Lewis said. “[Drive-in’s] are probably a niche alternative, but it’s just nostalgic and fun. 

Lewis plans on catching the “Chamber of Secrets” and “Prisoner of Azkaban” double feature. She said seeing her favorite Potter films at Blue Starlite will be a special moment, as she never got the opportunity to see them on the big screen when they were released.

Frank said his experience running the Blue Starlite proves there’s still an audience interested in seeing films outdoors.

“It’s a thing people liked back in the day, and after doing it for five years, I can say people still like it,” Frank said. “It’s a great movie-watching experience that I’m glad to be a part of the revival of.”