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blue Starlite drive in theater
(Josh Frank)

When Josh Frank built a rudimentary outdoor theater 10 years ago to screen a movie for his then-girlfriend, he didn't realize he was actually building what would become a local institution.


Frank's self-proclaimed "crazy idea" of a mini outdoor theater came to light as he and the woman, now his wife, watched the show. He started to think about how Austin needed a place for drive-in movies that was small and funky, just like the town. That was the beginning of the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In Theatre.

The theater and its offshoots are now thriving. The coronavirus pandemic has only fueled interest— many movie theaters remain closed, and it's much easier to social distance at a drive-in.

"I like to think that we're not just the hottest ticket in town because we're the only ticket in town, but because for 10 years we've been perfecting the very best drive-in experience," Frank said.


Frank never envisioned his Mueller outdoor theater as more than a one-person operated labor of love. But as the drive-in expanded to locations in Round Rock and the High Rockies, it became a six-employee operation. Now, with the extra work involved in making sure COVID-19 precautions are followed, Frank's payroll has grown to 16.

With the uptick in business, expanding capacity beyond the 20-40 cars each location hosts might seem natural, but Frank is satisfied with his current arrangement.

"What does the modern version of a drive-in need to be?" he said, citing coronavirus concerns. "If you have 200, 300 cars like drive-ins did 40 or 50 years ago, that doesn't help the current problem ... My idea of a modern drive-in was different. It was small. It was cheeky. It was a very intimate and private experience."

Frank and his employees have taken many steps to ensure guests' safety. Those include mandating that guests park their cars in staggered lines, stay in their vehicles, and only lower windows 25% if the occupants do not wear masks. Concessions and restroom facilities vary among locations.

"In this day, especially with the tragedy of the virus, I think this is a hopeful story," said Frank, who owns the drive-in with his wife Jessie and their young son Austin. "We are one of those pre-modern Austin small businesses that opened when there was only one tall building in Austin. And we're still here."

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Food festival and backyard pool party: Things to do in Austin this weekend


🗓 Thursday

🎻 ACL Radio & Long Center Present: The Drop-In

Relax on the lawn at the Long Center while you listen to some tunes from The Octopus Project. This is the last free concert on the lawn for the rest of summer!

8 p.m. Thursday | 📍The Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W Riverside Dr.

🗓 Friday

🏡 Austin Fall Home & Garden Show

This “dynamic” showcase of the newest trends in home and garden decoration, renovation and services is returning to Austin with special appearances from HGTV Unsellable Houses stars Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

Various times Friday-Sunday | 📍Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez St.

🎸 Father John Misty

Don’t miss this highly-articulate indie-folk artist on his “Chloë and the Next Twentieth Century” tour while he plays for the audience under the stars. Suki Waterhouse opens the stage at 7 p.m. and tickets are still available starting at $28.50.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday | 📍Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park, 1401 Trinity St.

🗓 Saturday

🧚 Take The Magic Home With You: Faerie Garden Workshop

Get up bright and early to learn how to make your own faerie garden in your backyard, with supplies provided by the Conservancy. Tickets are $6 and you can choose to add your home to the Woodland Faerie Trail.

8-11 a.m. Saturday | 📍Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Rd.

🍷 Fareground Food and Wine Festival

Collect your passport upon arrival and collect up to 10 specialty “stamps” as you explore bites from each of the restaurants, plus wine from DRINK and Ellis. Tickets are $45.

4-8 p.m. Saturday | 📍Fareground Austin, 111 Congress Ave.

🎹 Us & Them Presents: The Beatles Tribute Night

Calling all Beatles fans—Hotel Vegas is bringing local musicians, like Como Las Movies and P.T. Banks, together to play covers of the famous band’s songs. Cover is $10 and this event is 21 and up.

8:30 p.m. Saturday | 📍Hotel Vegas, 1502 E 6th St.

🗓 Sunday

🍖 BBQ Pool Party at the Carpenter Hotel

There’s still time to soak up some summer at this classic backyard barbecue, complete with cocktails, pool food, ice cream, live music from El Combo Oscura and good vibes. Tickets are $55 each.

1-6 p.m. Sunday | 📍Carpenter Hotel, 400 Josephine St.

Shopping for an EV? Tax credits for your dream car might slip away soon

Volkswagen ID.5 (Volkswagen)

Whether you’re making the switch out of a gas-powered car or thinking of adding another EV into the mix, tax credits could go away for your desired car.

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