WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Starlite is back in business and going strong after nearly being shut down for good.
After a season under new ownership, things are looking up for Wichita’s drive-in theater.
When Starlite closed last year, several members of the community came together to keep it open.
After a loan from the city and new ownership, the drive-in reopened.
People in the area say the business benefits the whole area.
Blake Smith made a deal and took over Starlite in December after receiving a $200,000 loan from the city.
“Wichitans love this drive-in were just trying to carry on this legacy,” said Smith.
Since opening up on March 1 and dealing with some storms earlier in the season, Smith says so far the drive-in has had 75,000 in paid admission compared to about 70,000 last year.
“In year one, you kind of have to sit down and get the fundamentals going first, and then little by little we’ll kind of get some traction in this market,” said Smith.
Councilman James Clendenin was one of the people who worked on saving the historic Wichita venue.
“It brings stability as far as crime goes to the area. It brings jobs to the community. It brings quality of life things here to south Wichita that there isn’t anywhere else in the city,” said Clendenin.
Smith has five years to pay off the loan.
“I personally guaranteed it, and my bank in Tulsa guaranteed if I don’t pay the loan then they will pay the loan,” said Smith.
And, he has plans to get more people out to Starlite next year.
“We’re working on possibly a season pass next year that we would sell,” he said. “One thing that was a huge hit this year was that we sold souvenir cups.”