Starlite Drive-In

4600 U.S. 45,
Eldorado, IL 62930

700 cars

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Starlite Drive-In Eldorado IL

Located halfway between Harrisburg and Eldorado, IL. The Starlite Drive-In had a ‘soft’ opening on October 10, 1952 with “Frontier Gal” and Aboott & Costello in “The Naughty Nineties”. It closed for the season in December 1952. It had its Grand Opening on April 3, 1953 with “Frenchie” and “Red Skies of Montana”. It was operated by the Turner-Farrar Circuit. It was closed around 1986.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

dallasmovietheaters on August 7, 2015 at 9:44 am

The Starlite Drive-In was one of two Harrisburg area drive-ins neither within the city limits. The first was the Harrisburg Drive-In in Pankeyville and the second was this entry, the Starlite Drive-In for Turner-Farrar Theatres circuit. On the 17-acre tract was a drive-in accommodating 700 cars on 11 ramps. Landscaped with a 30 by 80 foot flower bed at the huge 68 foot high and 80 foot wide screen tower. The 45 foot a counter was a visual hit at the drive-in.

Because of myriad delays, the Starlite missed its spring and summer 1952 grand opening targets. Once finished, however, the theater decided to embark upon a shortened season opting for a soft launch on October 10, 1952 with “Frontier Gal” and Abbott and Costello’s “The Naughty Nineties.” The latter film featured one of the most famous versions of the comedy team’s “Who’s on First?” routine. Turner-Farrar even advertised in 1952 that the formal grand opening wouldn’t occur until the following spring. The drive-in closed for the season just two months later in December of 1952.

For its grand opening officially on April 3, 1953, the Starlite opened with the films, “Frenchie” and “Red Skies of Montana.” And fondly remembered by locals were the appearances by three ponies for free rides. Their names were Red, Koko and Gus which — along with the playground — made the Starlite family friendly. They were recurring features of the drive-in. Orchids were flown in from Hawaii via St. Louis for the first 1,000 ladies who showed up on opening night. And 1,700 total patrons would get in the first night. For most of years of operation, the Starlite was a May-October operation.

After decades of service, the drive-in was closed and then demolished. A feint outline can be seen in satellite shots at Highway 45 and Lindale halfway between Wasson and Eldorado.

Chris1982 on August 8, 2015 at 12:28 am

When did the Starlite close? I found three different dates.

jwmovies on September 21, 2016 at 1:37 am

A better address would be 4600 U.S. 45, Eldorado, IL 62930. This is the address for the equine center located where the drive entrance was from the highway. To the east of the center you can make out a couple of ramps.

Please update.

Kenmore on September 21, 2016 at 8:57 am

It appears that most of the land the drive-in was located on remains untouched. You can see the ramps and the foundations for the projection booth/concession stand and the screen.

50sSNIPES on September 12, 2021 at 1:16 pm

Information about the Starlite goes as follows:

The 68ft screen tower is surfaced on a transite board with metal counter flashing between each piece of 4x8ft board. A red lead base with an extremely white pigment was used to give reflecting qualities. An article states that the tower contains enough wood to put in 5 indoor theaters, but I don’t think that’s the case. There were 7,000 teco rings and 4,000 bolts being used under building the tower’s framework. The tower is set on a footing of more than 300 yards if concrete, reinforced in steel and self-supporting. The back side which we all know faces the U.S. 45, which was also covered with a transite board with stainless steel stripping between each piece of board. More than 5,000ft of those were used outside of the tower. All of those steel works were done by the George L. Mesker Steel Corporation of Evansville, Indiana. This theater surrounds the beautiful sites of 500 Lombardy poplar trees which were planted, 126 evergreens, and over 500 shrub plants being used in landscaping in grounds.

With the back of the screen contains an intricate lighting system, which consists of flood lighting from the base and from the roof with multi-colored lamps. The back contains the “Starlite” 8x4ft letters with 2in strips of Scotchlight illuminating the center of lettering. The other letters “Drive”, “In”, and “Theatre” were 3x2ft.

When the theater opened, not just the attractions, but 3 door prizes were given away by each entry. The first prize contains a Noma Electric Doll, a talking doll with a press of a button contains a soundbox either he or she can laugh, talk, sing, or even saying her prayers, which were extremely ultra rare to find. The second prize contains a Stewart-Warner Portable Radio, styled in a green plastic case with a pullout handle for easy carrying. And the last prize contains a Dormey Portable Electric Food Mixer, a faster way to bake. For the kiddies, there are also Souvenir Rings especially designed for the Starlite by Penny King. Also for the little ones contains pony rides. There were 3 of them, named Gus, Red, and Koko, in front of the screen tower. And lastly, the first 1,000 women who attended the Starlite in its opening day will receive orchids, that came from Hawaii.

ml_garrison on October 16, 2021 at 11:49 pm

it closed in either ‘86 or '87 because one of the last movies i remember seeing on the marquee was wildcats with goldie hawn. i was a sophomore in high school in eldorado then and i remember hearing a rumor that part of what lead to the closure was that they were having a lot of trouble with devil worshipers harassing patrons.

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