Starlight Twin Drive-In
1320 Starlight Drive,
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Previously operated by: Selected Theatres Co.
Previous Names: Starlight Auto Theatre
Akron’s Starlight Auto Theatre is considered to be one the very first auto theatres to open in the city limits of Akron, Ohio and in the state. Supposedly according to some sources the auto theatre opened in 1937. I could not find any evidence of it in 1938 and 1939 so I don’t think that happened. In 1938, the Akron Independent Theatre Owners Association objected to the “Akron airport open-air theatre proposal” fearing loss of business, but there protests failed and the Starlight Auto Theatre opened on July 16, 1940. The opening feature was the 1939 western “Destiny Rides Again” with James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich and short subjects. It could park 400 cars on the parking ramps with blast speakers located on the screen tower for the sound system.
The Starlight Auto Theatre first location was at 1615 S. Arlington. It was opened by Clarence H. Snook and George Blake (dba Starlight Pictures Inc.). Besides operating the Auto Theatre, George Blake was director of the motion picture department at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, who himself was filmmaker. He documented the stories of Akron’s blimps in films screened across the county. Co-Op Theatres of Ohio is the buying and booking agency. On August of 1947, Snook and Blake had installed a new $15,000 sound system consisting of new in-a-car speakers, poles, wiring and amplifier to power the parking field. This replaced the blast speakers on top of the screen tower. After updating the Starlight Auto Theatre, Snook and Blake would go and open up the Ascot Auto Theatre on May 27, 1948, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
In March of 1951, both Snook and Blake decided to retire to Florida. The Starlight Auto Theatre and Ascot Auto Theatre were sold to Edward J. Rabb. Part of the deal was a 15 year lease on the land for the Starlight Auto Theatre from Mrs. F. W. Wecker. Rabb is an attorney and also operates the Highland, Copley, Liberty, Spicer and Vogue Theatres. Eventually he would open the Village Theatre and Fairlawn Theatre. When the auto theatre closed at the end of the 1960 season, the Starlight Auto Theatre was demolished. A new Montgomery Ward’s store was built on the adjoining property and the old auto theatre property becomes the parking lot for it. Eventually that store was demolished when they went out of business.
The Starlight Auto Theatre reopened on June 16, 1961, at a new location at 1320 Starlight Drive. Opening night features were the 1960 mystery “Midnight Lace” with Doris Day and Rex Harrison. Second feature is 1960 comedy “The Grass Is Greener” with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. In the late-1960’s Selected Theatres from Cleveland took over the operation of the Starlight Auto Theatre along with Star Enterprises from Rabb.
On August 25, 1977, the Starlight Auto Theatre reopened as the Starlight Twin Drive-In. In 1982, National Theatre Corporation of Cleveland was listed has operator of the drive-in. The Starlight Twin Drive-In closed in June of 1983 for good. The drive-in was demolished and is now used for parking construction equipment.
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A couple of facts about this:
1) The Montgomery Ward built at the old site was part of a larger shopping center called “Akron Square.” It barely outlived the Starlite; it was empty by the late 80s and demolished in the early 90s. There was an indoor theater there which is on this site (Akron Square Cinema 6).
2) The address of Starlight Drive came later for its second location; the roads in front of the theater were heavily altered when 224 was turned into an expressway. It probably had an Emmitt Road or Waterloo Rd/US-224 address throughout the 60s and into the 70s.