5101 S. Lamar Street,
5101 S. Lamar Street,Dallas, TX 75215
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The Starlite theater was a true survivor in the history of Dallas cinema exhibition. It was Dallas' first African American drive-in theater and therefore was not covered or listed in the local Dallas newspaper movie clock listings or ads until a few studio ads for Blaxploitation films listed the Starlite in the mid-1970s. With its 60' screen and labeled as the “Southwest’s finest for colored entertainment,” the theater played films for more than 25 years. With no ads, passerbys probably knew it best for its jet mural or its red and blue neon.
The theater also survived nearby competition from the Cinderella Drive-In which was opened in 1950 and re-launched with panoramic screen and grand re-opening in 1958. Owner Ed Bowen and his Starlite survived a major fire associated with its neon lights. A hailstorm broke the neon lights and were likely responsible for a Friday the 13th April 1962 blaze at the screen tower. The Cinderella was demolished and replaced by a state of the art twin-screen King Drive-In. When the Blaxploitation genre began and martial arts films were big, the nearby King Twin and Starlite battled it out for the best bookings. And, yet, the Starlite — with just one screen and an undersized 350-car lot (though listed at 500) just kept co-existing with the nearby King until finally ending its successful run and being demolished. The Starlite is probably one of the most historically important drive-ins in the history of Dallas.
King/Cinderella on the left and the Star Lite on the right in 1955.
The concept of segregated drive-in theatres is an interesting subject that should be thoroughly researched for its historical value, since it was the walk-in theaters that traditionally implemented this practice. According to the book ‘The American Drive-In Movie Theatre’ by Don and Susan Sanders, there was one such “ozoner” in Fort Worth in operation sometime from the early- to mid-‘50s called the “Lariat”. I did a little research and couldn’t find a drive-in with that name, but I found one called the Kar-Vue, located on Rosedale Ave./Spur 303, just to the west of where South Loop 820 is located. I’ve had one person say that they recall seeing a drive-in in that particular area. So far, the information I have on it is scant at best. Hopefully, someone here can shed some more light about it, if possible.
The King/Cinderella Drive In was located further down Lamar from The Starlite.. Both are demolished. Nothing remains of either Theatres……. Randy A Carlisle – Historical Photographer
ken mc’s photo is interesting because it shows how the Starlite was modified for the projection of cinemascope movies – simply stretched the screen tower out from the left edge, as evidenced from the different shade of shingles (probably asphalt) used for the extension. Other styles of screen towers didn’t lend themselves to such a straightforward modification. Some had to have a second screen mounted on struts extending out from the original square one; this allowed for installation of a curved screen, something the Starlite and others of this style obviously didn’t have.
The Starlite and the King were right next to each other on South Lamar as I recall. During the late 1970’s these theaters (I’m not certain they were both still open) showed R rated, X rated films. I was a Police Officer working that area at the time.
Here is an undated photo from Life Magazine:
Didn’t this Theatre go through many name changes? I think it was called Cinderella or the King back in the 70s/80s. One memory I have as a kid of the drive-in was one of the screens has a huge crown on the back. After it was closed that same screen stayed up for years.
That’s an interesting photo. I hadn’t considered the concept of segregated drive-ins before, but it went with the times, I suppose.