North Star Drive-In
100 W. 84th Avenue,
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The North Star Drive-In in Thornton, Colorado (northern suburb of Denver), was one of the largest single screen drive-ins in the country. It opened by 1961 and held 1,940 cars, which could be increased to 2,000 with the addition of “fence mounted” speakers (which we did for “Star Wars” and others).
The single screen sat off the fenced property, on a hill, and the distance from the projector to the screen was 1/10th of a mile. We remained with JET-ARC projectors for many years, and Xenon used to test their various new projector models in our third position, to see if they could drive it to throw a bright enough picture the 1/10 of a mile. (Harder in an outdoor environment because of surrounding businesses, and their lights.)
When I managed the drive-in, in 1976-77 (I worked from 1975 to 1981, assistant managing, and managing various drive-ins) we used to be one of the city’s second-run movie-houses, because of our size. When exclusive movies like “Jaws”, “Close Encounters”, and “Star Wars” got out of the first-run movie houses (in those days, only one theater had the move in the city), we would be one of the four theaters in the city they would go.
The North Star Drive-In was originally part of the Compass Drive-In’s, a chain of Wolfberg Theaters. These included the North, South, East, and West (hence the “Compass” name), the Wadsworth, Havana, Arapaho, Valley and Monaco. Also, a few indoor theaters, including the NorthGlenn Twin and downtown Paramount. These were bought out by Commonwealth Theaters in 1979/1980.
The North Star Drive-In was open year around, including Christmas, with heaters. It was finally shut down and the valuable land beneath it sold in 1993.
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