Mitchell's iconic Starlite Drive-in theater shutting down once again due to dwindling attendance

The Drive-in reopened in 2020 during the pandemic after a seven-year hiatus.

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Vehicles make their way into the Starlite Drive-in outdoor theater in Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo

MITCHELL — The iconic Starlite Drive-in theater that has provided Mitchell area residents with a unique way to take in a movie from the confines of their vehicles is shutting down once again due to “not meeting expenses.”

Three years ago, the Starlite Drive-in was brought back to life during the pandemic. Reopening the retro outdoor theater in 2020 was a move that Jeff Logan, owner of the Starlite Drive-in and Logan Luxury 5 Cinemas, said was made to give moviegoers a safer option to take in a film on the big screen amid the highly contagious coronavirus spreading through the area.

“It seemed like the right answer to provide extra social distancing, but let people watch movies, get together and get out. (Previously), everyone loved the idea of the drive-in, but they weren’t going to it. We think now, there’s a demand, people feel safer and they can maintain social isolation in the car,” Logan told the Mitchell Republic in 2020 when he decided to reopen the theater.

At least in the short term, the Starlite Drive-In Theatre is back in business.

The closure of the outdoor theater was announced Thursday on the Starlite Drive-in’s social media page, which explained that attendance numbers were good in the first year it reopened but fell in 2021 and 2022. The social media post stated the Drive-in “didn’t meet expenses” for each of the past two years, “despite our best efforts.”

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People watch a classic movie at the Starlite Drive-in in Mitchell.
Mitchell Republic file photo

Prior to the 2020 reopening of the Drive-in, the summer seasonal theater, located along Highway 37 in north Mitchell, had been closed for seven years. It first opened in 1949 at the location it remains today under the name of Lake Vue Drive-in Theater. Logan bought the theater in 1976.


While drive-in theaters were popular attractions several decades ago, they are becoming a thing of the past. In its heyday, there were roughly 4,000 drive-in theaters in the US. That number has now been depleted to 321, according to the latest statistics from the United Drive-in Movie theater Owners Association. A drive-in theater map shows South Dakota has six theaters still doing business.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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