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Hundreds attend final show at the Starlite

Movie goers sit on top of a car to watch “Despicable Me 2,” the last movie to be shown at the Starlite Drive-in Theater in Mitchell Saturday night.(Sean Ryan/Republic) 1 / 2
Jeff Logan, owner of the Starlite Drive-in movie theater, starts to string the last film through the projector to be played at the Starlite Saturday night in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/Republic) 2 / 2

Two and half hours before the start of the show, in a tiny threelight room filled with names of past drive-inn managers written on the wall, Jeff Logan threaded “Despicable Me 2” through the projector to be the last film played at Mitchell’s Starlite Drive-in.

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A routine Logan, owner of the Starlite, has done hundreds of times since buying the drive-in in 1976.

The final night did not disappoint. Combined with the Longfellow Elementary Parent- Teacher Organization school carnival event, the drive-in sold out with several hundred cars parking in the grass along the sides and behind the back row. According to Logan, the last time the drive-in was completely full was in 1977 with the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”

The memories flood back for Logan, who recalls the emergency fixes, improvements and time spent at the drive-in.

“When you push the button, you know the drama behind that button,” said Logan. “It feels strange, and yet it also feels reassuringly familiar.”

Fifty years ago, Pat Clark, of Mitchell, had his first job at the drive-in at the age of 16. For one summer he worked at the theater mostly cleaning up the trash after movies. He remembers the “Dawn to Dusk” showings where they would show multiple movies ending just before the sun rose.

“You couldn’t believe how much trash was left after those,” said Clark.

Clark, who wouldn’t have probably come to the final night with his wife Bobbie if their four grandchildren from Yankton were not in town, said he was glad to have the excuse.

Clark did say he was bummed out to see the drive-in close with the “nostalgia of it all,” but he understood the economics of it all and just hoped “it could go on for another 50 years.”