Drive-in movies are embedded in the American imagination.
While that shared experience has faded into history in many communities, memories of outdoor moviegoing are still being made at Bloomington’s Starlite Drive-In.
Indiana University Cinema will partner with the Starlite for the first time on Thursday, Aug. 4 to present two classic films in the classic setting the drive-in calls its “Auto-torium.” The double feature will begin at 9:30 p.m. with “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and end with “Night of the Living Dead.”
“We are thrilled to bring the IU Cinema experience outside of our four walls,” said associate director Brittany D. Friesner.
“Our founding director, Jon Vickers, has long envisioned programming outdoor screenings in Bloomington. Given our summer closure this year, it was the perfect time to create outdoor film experiences on campus and throughout the community.”
When the IU Cinema programming staff was polled about films to present in the outdoor series, the 1968 version of “Night of the Living Dead” was a unanimous selection.
“Apparently, it was an obvious choice for a drive-in experience,” Friesner said. “We decided to make it a double feature by programming a more kid-friendly first picture to round out an authentic drive-in program.”
The night will begin with a film that legendary critic Roger Ebert once described as “one of the greatest movie entertainments I’ve ever seen.”
“E.T.” is Steven Spielberg’s endearing — and enduring — story about a boy and his siblings who hide and protect a lonely little alien stranded far from his otherworldly home. Watch for standout performances by Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore, who was just 7 years old at the time of its release in 1982.
George A. Romero’s cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” will follow after a short intermission.
Once criticized as too gory, “Night of the Living Dead” has been added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” films to be preserved. The 1968 low-budget horror film helped spawn a pop-culture fascination with zombies through its haunting depiction of undead monsters terrorizing Pennsylvania.
Reece Freeman, whose family has owned and operated the Starlite Drive-In since 2014, described these films as timeless classics in their respective genres that “will make for a magical night of astounding stories.”
“We are excited to be have the opportunity to work with Indiana University Cinema to bring two iconic films to Bloomington’s very own drive-in theater,” Freeman said. “We are currently in our 61st year of operation and hope to continue working with our community partners to bring film patrons the best and most unique cinematic experiences for many years to come.”
“Under the Stars” series
While the Starlite Drive-In partnership is new, this won’t be the first time IU Cinema has presented outdoor films for the Bloomington community. In a joint effort with the city’s parks and recreation department, IU Cinema brought “Time Bandits” to Bryan Park last August.
This year’s “IU Cinema Under the Stars” series will include two additional events beyond the special night at the drive-in.
The animated film “Spirited Away” will be screened free of charge Aug. 18 at the IU Global and International Studies Building as part of the Office of First Year Experience’s Welcome Week. Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning film follows a girl who wanders into a dreamlike world of phantoms and spirits at a carnival site.
On Sept. 9, IU Cinema will again partner with Bloomington Parks and Recreation to present “WarGames” free of charge in Bryan Park. Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy star in the charming yet terrifying story about the accidental misadventures of a teen genius. The film dates from 1983, a time when the Cold War quietly raged and personal computers were in their infancy,
Part of the IU Cinema mission is to provide unique cinematic experiences, Friesner said, “but there is only so much you can do indoors.”
That’s the magic of the “Under the Stars” partnerships.
“Of course, some things won’t be exactly the same as an IU Cinema screening, but the goal is for our patrons to enjoy an amazing film experience,” she said. “We think they will.”
If you go
WHEN: Aug. 4. Gates open at 7:30 p.m., “E.T.” begins at 9:30 p.m., “Night” starts after short intermission
WHERE: The Starlite Drive-In, 7640 S. Old State Road 37, Bloomington
ADMISSION: $5 per person, free for children under 12. Tickets available on-site the day of the show.
DETAILS: Arrive early to get a parking spot. Part of the fun is getting food and playing games before the movies start. Concession stand snacks include hamburgers, hotdogs, ice cream from The Chocolate Moose and, of course, popcorn. No outside food allowed without $6 fee. Films go on rain or shine.
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WHAT: “Spirited Away” (PG) presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
WHEN: Aug. 18. Seating area opens at 7:30 p.m., film begins at 9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Global and International Studies Building south lawn, IU Bloomington campus
DETAILS: Bring a blanket. Tours of the Global and International Studies Building, food offerings and games with prizes begin at 8 p.m. Rain location is IU Cinema. In case of inclement weather, location will be decided by 5 p.m. For updates, check @IUcinema on Twitter.
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WHAT: “WarGames” (PG)
WHEN: Sept. 9. Film begins at dusk.
WHERE: Bryan Park, junction of South Henderson and East Dixie streets, Bloomington
DETAILS: Rain date is Sept. 10. For up-to-the-minute weather updates, call (812) 349-3754.