Star-Lite Drive-In

918 6th Street,
Socorro, NM 87801

100 cars

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Sunset Drive-In

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Star-Lite Drive-In

The tiny Sunset Drive-In was built by Edsel Cavasos, who opened it with 100 in-car speakers and promised to add more when needed, according to a note in the March 26, 1949 issue of Boxoffice.

Just 11 weeks later, Cavasos was advertising the Sunset Drive-In for sale in a Boxoffice classified advertisement. “100-car drive-in with in-car speakers. Up and coming town of 6,000. Only one small theatre in town. New Mexico School of Mines located in town; 600x600 ft. plot on which theatre is built is leased with good, long lease.”

On October 8, 1949, Boxoffice reported that “Owner Jack Wills says that weather conditions and construction difficulty have made it impossible to reopen the local drive-in this season. Three attempts have been made previously to complete remodeling of the theatre.” Wills owned the indoor Loma Theatre in Socorro.

In July 22, 1950, Boxoffice wrote about a projection booth fire at the “Star-Lite Drive-In” in Socorro, “owned and operated by Edsell Casavos.“ (sic) Three weeks later, the magazine said that Cavasos had "rebuilt the projection booth, replaced missing speakers, and installed new projectors.” That’s the last note I could find about this drive-in. Cavasos opened a radio/TV repair shop in Hatch but passed away in 1957 at the age of 36.

An October 1950 USGS aerial photo showed an unusual circle driveway at present-day 918 6th Street leading to a long drive which looped around a square, cleared, mostly empty lot. A blurrier 1952 USGS photo showed the driveways intact and a possible screen at the southeast corner of the lot. A 1955 aerial showed the same circle drive leading to a auto junkyard. No trace of the drive-in remains today.

Contributed by Michael Kilgore

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Kenmore on March 23, 2023 at 9:37 pm

The October 1950 aerial shows no screen or projection booth/concession stand at that site. And yet the article you cite states that the projection booth had been rebuilt reportedly by August of that year, so both should be there, right?

The circle driveway seems to have more to do with connecting the house seen on the north side to the stable/shed just to the south. With the connecting road leading to what looks like a barn on the NE corner of the property.

Is there any other evidence to suggest this is the site? Otherwise, this looks like private property to me.

MichaelKilgore on March 24, 2023 at 7:45 am

You may be right, Kenmore. My evidence is weak - the size is right for 100 cars, it became an auto junkyard at about the right time, and somebody cleared this fenced square for something. For all I know, Cavasos might have been living at that house. The concession stand could have been either corner building, and the screen might have been makeshift and temporary.

You’re better at scanning photos than I am. Maybe you could download the 1950 aerials from EarthExplorer and help me find a more satisfying candidate for this mystery drive-in.

Kenmore on March 24, 2023 at 9:07 am

There’s clearly no projection booth on this site nor is there a screen. If he had rebuilt the projection booth in August 1950, you think he wouldn’t have torn it down by October and totally cleared the property, especially if he hadn’t sold the land by that time.

And perhaps even more telling, no evidence of tire marks, tracks, or other indications that cars had ever been on the property. So, I don’t think this is it.

I will try to search Earth Explorer for any evidence of a drive-in.

Kenmore on March 24, 2023 at 10:06 am

MichaelKilgore I’m not seeing another drive-in close to the town so far. But, I’m suspecting that the Star-Lite and Sierra Vista were the same.

You mentioned in your June 9, 2019 post on the Sierra Vista page in the first sentence, “I wonder whether this drive-in opened as the Sunset, which is listed in the 1950 & 1951 Film Daily Year Books as the only one in Socorro.

In addition, you mentioned in the description of this page, “100-car drive-in with in-car speakers. Up and coming town of 6,000. Only one small theatre in town. New Mexico School of Mines located in town; 600x600 ft. plot on which theatre is built is leased with good, long lease.”

That “one small theater” would most likely be the Loma Theater. And yet the Sierra Vista (under another name) was operating in 1949. Why wasn’t it mentioned? Unless perhaps it is the same theater.

If the Star-Lite was sold and closed for even a short time, it would make sense that under new ownership it would be re-opened as a “new” theater, especially if it had been expanded.

I’ve seen on more than one occasion theater advertisements that do not mentioned any previous ownership.

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