Whizzing along on Highway 3A between Nelson and Balfour we suddenly spied the Starlight Theatre
sign. It's not as though we had never before travelled that stretch of road, but we somehow had managed to miss this sign on previous treks. It's not that hard to spot, either, standing atop a small shed alongside the highway about 12 miles east of Nelson.
Now the site of a mini storage outlet and a residence, some of the drive-in's parking area is still open, covered with grass. The only remaining reminder of the Starlight Theatre is the sign left by the road.
The drive-in was opened in 1952, its first movie being The Tanks Are Coming, a 1951 film with Steve Cochran, Philip Carey and Mari Aldon. Below is a bit of the Starlight's history.
The Starlight Drive-In was opened in 1952 at 12 mile by Tom Hetherington. The first movie shown was a war movie “The Tanks Are Coming”. The outdoor theatre could take in 300 cars and sometimes it was full. Rose Donaldson was a very familiar face at the Drive-In. She sold tickets at the drive through window and worked in the snack bar from 1958 to 1977. In 1978 Tom decided to get out of the business. Two of the last movies he ran were Close Encounters of the Third Kind
and Star Wars
. Frank and Shirley Price bought the drive-in and kept it open until the early 1980s. The site is now a storage facility. The old reader board remains as a reminder of the drive-in theatre days.
Source: West Kootenay Weekender Friday June 19, 1998 article:
“Reel Big Deal” by Bob Hall
From Up the Lake History