Starlite 14 Drive-In

2339 US Highway 14 East,
Richland Center, WI 53581

538 cars

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Starlite 14 Drive-In

The Highway 14 Drive-In was opened May 16, 1952 in the Muscoda section of Richland Center. It was operated by the estate of Sarah Eskin, who had also operated the Eskin Theatre (today the Center Cinema Twins) in the town center.

Later renamed Starlite 14 Drive-In, and the Center Cinema Twins were both taken over by Bill & Lisa Muth in 1988. In early-2014, both theatres were being equipped with digital projection equipment. It was closed in September 2019 at the end of the season.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on June 4, 2014 at 10:32 am

There is now a new website for this theater which includes pictures of the digital conversion: http://richlandmovies.com/

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on June 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm

I’ve seen several mentions online that the Starlite 14 opened in 1953, but Google Maps said it has been open since 1952.

That got me checking, and sure enough, the Highway 14 is listed in the 1952 Theatre Catalog. Exec: Sarah Eskin and Ervin Morris, Muscoda Th. Capacity 538. I think that Google Maps got this one right.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on June 18, 2017 at 2:38 pm

If the drive-in was sold in 1988, its renaming came before that. The 1984 IMPA still listed the Highway 14 Outdoor, but the 1986 IMPA had changed it to Starlight (sic) Outdoor.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on June 18, 2017 at 2:54 pm

From the Starlite 14’s history page:

On September 24, 1951, Sarah Eskin acquired land east of Richland Center to be used as a drive-in theater. She was not able to purchase the land outright, but was granted a lifetime lease of 20 acres. The deed states the premises to be used for a drive-in theater, provided that when such premises cease to be used for such purposes title thereto shall revert to the grantor, his heirs, or assigns. The grantee can pass the business on to her heirs or assigns. The Hi-way 14 Outdoor Theater opened its gates on May 16, 1952. It is now known as Starlite 14. The Starlite 14 has upgraded, using FM radio for sound for many years. Speaker posts are still there to help cars park in the appropriate spot. The Starlite 14 is a county treasure; one of 11 in the state of Wisconsin. It is the last one in Southwest Wisconsin and has withstood the test of time. At one time in the late 1950’s there were 79 drive-in theaters in Wisconsin.

LeslieB
LeslieB on March 26, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Marcus Corporation leased it from January 1, 1957-January 1, 1967. In January 1957 it was called Highway 14 Outdoor Theatre.

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on August 24, 2019 at 2:39 pm

On the Starlite 14’s Facebook page, Bill & Lisa Muth wrote that they are retiring and will soon put the Starlite 14 up for sale. If no one buys it, the drive-in won’t reopen in 2020. WMTV ran a short video clip about the possible closing last night.

And by the way, it’s called the Starlite 14 because it’s adjacent to US Highway 14.

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on October 6, 2019 at 1:19 pm

Both theatres are now closed and for sale. See website for real estate office link.

Trolleyguy
Trolleyguy on October 7, 2019 at 9:31 am

Story about closings: https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/theaters-in-richland-center-again-face-uncertain-future/article_3ad4beaf-33e0-5327-81cd-0f7ed25102e5.html

MichaelKilgore
MichaelKilgore on October 7, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Here’s the Internet Archive’s version of Trolleyguy’s link, since the Archive’s version is more likely to be available 10 years from now.

I think this is the most significant quote from the article: “The land for the Starlite is owned by a local farmer and the Muths pay the property taxes on 20 acres of land as rent. If the Starlite closes for a year, the contract states that the deal, which has been in effect since 1953, would be void and the land used for other purposes.” First, the Starlite’s history page (quoted in a comment above) says the lease began in 1951. Second, this gives the drive-in a deadline. If only I had a spare $200k or so. :)

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