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MINTURN – Josh Frank leans into the car window.

“You guys first-timers? Alright, welcome to the Blue Starlite,” he says, sliding a credit card through the card reader on his phone as a carload of giddy parents and kids preps for their blast into the past. “Tune to 98.5 and have fun.”

Tapping the resurgence of retro, Frank’s boutique mini drive-in theater delivers nostalgia by the dashboard light. After a creative date-night showing of “Grease” six years ago in an empty parking lot behind an art studio in Austin, the movie-buff entrepreneur has ferried his pop-up Blue Starlite drive-in dream from Texas to Miami and this summer, Minturn. The century-old railroad town has embraced Frank and his 40-car plan as he trumpeted the country’s highest drive-in movie theater with sold-out showings of cult favorites like “A Fistful of Dollars,” “The Goonies,” “Princess Bride” and, most recently, a season-ending “Beetlejuice.”

“This really fits Minturn’s brand,” said Michelle Metteer, the economic development director for the 1,000-resident village thriving in a valley between Vail and Beaver Creek. “I mean, our mission statement includes the words ‘funky’ and ‘eclectic’ and we want to stay that way. This just worked perfectly.”

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An author and playwright, Frank was in starving-artist mode six years ago when he wowed his lady with a dashboard movie date in Austin. He whitewashed a wall for a screen. He found some vintage drive-in speakers to hang on his car window. He cast “Grease,” Jessica’s favorite movie. She’s his wife and business partner now.

“I started thinking ‘why hasn’t anyone done this?’ This is awesome. I would pay to do this,” said the 41-year-old father of a two-month old boy they named Austin.

So he started researching drive-ins, which really became a study of the demise of drive-in theaters across the country. It seemed, he found, the once ubiquitous theaters were always located way out of town. Why not try something in the middle of the city? At first he approached his plan as a temporary art installation, something he could walk away from after six months if interest ever waned. It never did. He sells out most shows.

“I do all the work”

He came up with “Blue Starlite” after studying a decades-old database of U.S. drive-ins and mashing up the three most common theater names. He negotiated with Austin landlords to borrow empty lots, moving from the 20-car spot behind the art studio he managed to a 35-car lot with views of the glowing Texas Capitol to an 80-car location in a former downtown airport. He took a unique approach that was primarily driven by frugality.

He always works the gate. A pal parks cars and another works the concession trailer. He strung lights around the venues, building a vibe. He enticed local food trucks to sling donuts, beer and s’mores. He found a guy on eBay selling vintage drive-in commercials from the 1950s to entertain early visitors. He only showed old movies, spending a few bucks to lease crowd favorites like “Raising Arizona” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

He eschewed a fast-growth business plan, aiming instead to grow organically, largely through his own labor. If he had 10 cars, he broke even. Twenty cars left him with cash for his family.

“In the last six years I’ve figured out how to be the one guy in the country who knows how to do a mini boutique drive-in movie theater,” he said. “Other people have tried but they don’t last very long. I think it’s my business model, where I do all the work.”

Another car pulls up and Frank, operating from the headlights of his rental car, enthusiastically welcomes another carload of visitors who booked an online package that included a bag of popcorn and boxes of candy. The next car has a season pass for the Minturn spot and he high-fives everyone inside. Soon, dogs are wagging their way up to truck tailgates, begging for tossed popcorn. Kids are galloping between cars and blanketed camps of lawn-chaired viewers. Hoots of laughter echo down the valley as bat wings sprout from Michael Keaton’s ears and Catherine O’Hara cavorts through her animated “Day-Oh” dance.

Frank, who the previous night hosted a lucrative private party at the parking lot venue, smiles at his happy creation.

“This has been my favorite place to do this in six years,” he said as a crescent moon rose from behind his inflatable screen.

A few years ago, with his Austin gig rolling, he started thinking expansion. He opened a satellite operation in Miami and he started scouring the Rocky Mountains for a high country location. He tried Avon. It took long hours spread over many months to negotiate a weekend showing, but he needed an entire summer to make it work. Then he went to the Minturn Market and met some town leaders. He visited the town’s Little Beach Park, a cozy wooded amphitheater on the Eagle River. A beautiful park, but Frank liked the dirt parking lot.

No one had ever asked to use the lot for anything but cars, Metteer said.

“We all thought Josh really was being creative. We saw the opportunity, too,” she said, noting how town leaders were looking for ways to better utilize that space when Frank approached with his drive-in plan.

It took a day or two for the town to approve Frank’s use the parking lot — free of charge — for twice a week movies all summer. He did 15 shows. Most every one sold out, with visitors paying $35 for a car, two tickets and snacks. Locals get half-off prices. He coming back next summer, and the town is planning to champion the drive-in as a tourist draw aligning with local concerts and other events.

“Because it’s an experience, I can create a price level that’s different,” he says. “I can up-charge because I’m giving them this experience and I am creating this space that’s so unique. I treat it like an art installation.”

Minturn has labored to maintain it’s “funky and eclectic” niche in the shadow of giants. With all the free events, concerts and festivals at Vail and Beaver Creek, getting visitors to come to explore the quieter corners of the Eagle Valley is a perpetual challenge shared by all the towns within a short drive of the resort villages. Frank feels he’s helping Minturn foster a unique appeal.

“It’s fun when the drive in patrons are sharing the excitement with me because I’m excited,” Frank says. “And this town, the people are so friendly. This is real collaboration and that’s what makes it fun for me. Everyone is winning with this.”

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Drive-in movies in Minturn: Guide to attending summer films

The sun is starting to set, alighting the cliffs that surround Little Beach Park in Minturn. There is a sense of conviviality as camp chairs are set up and people chat with the folks from the car next door. Popcorn is munched and a few can tops are surreptitiously popped. The opening music starts to play through the FM radios and Jake and Elwood Blues are once again on a mission from God.

The Blue Starlite is a “mini urban drive-in,” the country’s highest drive-in movie theater at 7,861 feet above sea level, enjoying its second season in the Vail Valley. A maximum of 40 cars are allowed at each movie, keeping the experience much cozier and intimate than classic drive-ins, which is exactly what co-owner and Blue Starlite operator Josh Frank wanted.

A new twist on a classic

The idea blossomed from an experience that he created for his then-girlfriend, now wife and partner Jessica Shapiro. For their six-month anniversary, Josh projected a movie onto the alley wall behind his business in Austin, Texas, and created a tiny drive-in movie for one car. That’s when the light bulb came on.

“It started as a question,” Frank said. “Why aren’t there more experimental drive-in movie theaters?”

Frank said that he still loves the classic drive-ins, but they take hundreds of cars. It’s still a different experience than a movie theater and you still have more privacy, but it’s an impersonal experience.

“What I was interested in, when I was sitting with Jess in the car in the alleyway, was how can I create a sustainable business model from this that doesn’t require hundreds of cars a night?” Frank said. “It’s not about how many people we can get in it, but how intimate and special an experience we can create for a certain number of people.”

The first Blue Starlite Drive-In opened in 2010 in Austin, espousing the idea that smaller is better — and people agreed. Then, a few years ago, Frank and Shapiro decided to try out the idea in the Vail Valley.

Magic in Minturn

Both Frank and Shapiro have ties to the area: they got engaged here, they took their honeymoon here and Shapiro’s parents have a second home here. Frank said that he wanted to figure out a way to spend more time in the valley; opening up a mountain version of the Blue Starlite seemed to be a good option.

Finding the right location, though, proved to be more challenging. After a few years of trying to make things happen in bigger towns such as Avon, Frank said his friend Jake Wolf introduced him to Michelle Metteer, economic development coordinator in Minturn.

“Within 24 hours, I had the approval from the town of Minturn to do it here,” Frank said. “Seven months later, we opened.”

Located in Little Beach Park in Minturn, the Blue Starlite projects movies onto a 30-foot pop-up screen with the mountains as a backdrop. The films run the gamut, from newer releases such as “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” to the have-to-watch-it-at-a-drive-in classic “Grease.” This summer’s lineup includes 35 screenings, a marked increase from last summer’s 23.

‘Totally Minturn’

New this summer is the collaboration between the free Thursday concerts in Minturn and the drive-in. After the concert on July 6, the Blue Starlite continued the music theme by showing “Blues Brothers” and offering half-price walk-in tickets to anyone who comes for the music prior to the show.

“We’ve only done one, and it’s great,” Frank said. “It just makes so much sense. It creates a bigger night for everybody.”

Other music-themed movies have included “Footloose,” “Labyrinth” and “The Wizard of Oz,” featuring Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Minturn has embraced the Blue Starlite and so has its many fans. Minturn Mayor and season pass holder Matt Scherr said that though he and his wife have had experiences at drive-ins, it’s a new thing for his kids.

“It’s so totally, uniquely Minturn,” Scherr said. “If you go to a drive-in anywhere else, it’s not the same. We have the view of the cliffs at dusk, the cool things they sell there — they’ll be disappointed if they ever go to a regular drive-in.”

Scherr and his family have been season pass holders at the drive-in since its inception and have already seen three movies this summer.

“The pass was great,” Scherr said. “Once we hit three movies, it had already paid for itself with two kids.”

How to drive-in

Going to the drive-in is a simple affair — get in the car and go — but there are ways to improve the experience.

“Arrive at least 30 minutes before show time,” Frank said. “One of the first movie moguls from the 1920s said, ‘We don’t sell movie tickets, we sell theater tickets.’ That quote defines what we are about: yes, we show great pop culture movies and it’s awesome and you get to experience them in a way you never have before, but that’s only a small part of why you come to us. You come to us for the theater that we are, for the theater that we create — the show that we give. When someone shows up two minutes before, they’re missing out on what they paid for. The experience starts as the gate opens.”

The experience includes vintage ads playing on the big screen and concession options including Northside Kitchen & Coffee doughnuts, vintage sodas and s’mores.

Consider your car size, too. Larger cars are parked in the back to allow for better viewing. For those who want to sit in the back with the hatch raised, Frank said that there was space for that, too, but it’s limited.

“Watch from inside your car,” he said. “That’s the way they used to do it. If you’re sitting in the back, the sound might not be as good.”

For those arriving by foot or by bike, bring chairs or blankets for comfortable lounging and an FM radio so that you can hear the movie.

But no matter how you choose to experience the drive-in, you’re sure to have a memorable evening.

“Today there’s so much mass entertainment, we wanted to create something that felt like a very special experience for each person involved,” Frank said. “With all the technology and fast-pacedness, we thought it would be cool to create something more intimate and personalized and warm but that also was easy. That’s what people are looking for — easy.”

In an era where IMAX theaters with nap-worthy lounge chairs reign, going to the drive-in is more than a blast of nostalgia: it’s a way to reconnect, an excuse to snuggle with your sweetie or hold your kids a bit tighter. So pick a movie, buy your tickets in advance and make a night of it. You may not remember every movie, but you’ll always remember the drive-in.

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A Drive In Movie Theater Will Be Open In Minturn This Summer

Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In – Minturn

The Blue Starlite Drive-In Theatre in Minturn, Colorado is an intimate drive-in movie theatre right in the heart of the city. Parking space is limited, but that only creates a more relaxed, family-friendly experience.

Enjoy watching movies outdoors without feeling cramped or crowded in. See the screen, hear the actors, and have fun.

What to Expect

Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, CO

The Blue Starlite showcases childhood favorites and classic movies from the 1940s through the 1980s, as well as select indie films. You can listen to the movie through your car’s FM radio, no outside speakers are required. If a double feature is playing, guests may attend both features for the price of one.

Cars are assigned spots on a first come, first served basis, according to size. Larger cars and SUVs will be placed in back, so that they do not interfere with viewing.

All films are dependent on weather conditions. A light rain may not cancel a showing, but thunder and lightning make it difficult to run the equipment safely.

Blue Starlite will decide whether it’s safe to proceed on a case by case basis. If a show must be canceled, it will make the announcement no later than 15 minutes past showtime.


Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, CO

The concession stand offers drive-in favorites at a reasonable price. Highlights from the menu include the following:

  • Popcorn
  • Soda
  • Candy
  • Hot Dogs
  • Nachos
  • Pretzels
  • Pickles
  • Brownies and Cupcakes
  • Snow Cones and Ice Cream

Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, though buying directly from the concession supports the theatre and ensures its doors remain open.

Admission and Hours

Ticket prices are based on car occupancy (2 – 4 people) and available in 2 packages—with concessions and without. Extra guests require an additional fee. Gates open one hour prior to the first film.

Films are shown weekends and some weeknights. The first film usually begins at dusk. Check ticketing for details.

Walkers and bicyclists are welcome to attend. Chairs and radios are recommended for anyone not in a car. The theatre does not provide seating.

Dogs are welcome provided they remain on a leash and are able to stay quiet during the film. Bathrooms are available on site. Cell phone use is discouraged during the film.


Address: 801 Ed6, Minturn, CO 81645

Phone: 707-Drive-in

Pets: Yes, on-leash


Latest in Blue Starlite Drive-In


In minturn drive

Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in Theater

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801 Ed6
Minturn, CO 81645

Phone : 646-515-5232
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in Theater Website
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in Theater Facebook Page
Get Directions to Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in Theater
Status: OPEN
Car Capacity:50
Open Year Round:No, seasonal
Outside Food:Yes
Admission Price:$8 plus car fee
Pets Allowed:Yes
Cash Only:No
Food Permit:No

About Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in Theater

The Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in of Minturn, CO is the second of its kind as the original Blue Starlite Urban Mini Drive-in was opened in Austin, Texas. This is their second location. It is a seasonal, pop up drive-in located high in the Rockies in Vail Valley. To our knowledge, it is the highest drive-in in the world located at an elevation of almost 8000 feet. This is not a traditional drive-in as most people know them. The Blue Starlite uses a smaller, pop-up screen and smaller lot (it holds about 50 cars) for a more intimate experience. They are not digital and do not show first run movies but show drive-in classics and 80's favorites. You can walk-in, ride your bike in or bring a car. For walk-in, it is $8 per person. If you bring your car, it is $15 for a car spot and then $8 per person (with 1 person included in the $15 car spot charge). You can reserve a spot online before you arrive which is a good idea on weekends when they are busy. You can sit in your car or outside your car or in chairs and seating areas they have set up. Pets are allowed as long as they are well behaved. We think the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-in is a unique and innovative concept and we hope to see more pop up.

The mountains behind the screen at the Blue Starlite Drive-in in Colorado. CREDIT: Blue Starlite Drive-in Facebook page.

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Drive-in Theaters Nearby

Comanche Drive-in
27784 Co Rd 339
Buena Vista, CO 81211

Holiday Twin Drive-in
2206 South Overland Trail
Fort Collins, CO 80526

Star Drive-in
600 East Miami Street
Montrose, CO 81401

Hwy 24, Minturn to Redcliff, Colorado

Surveying Risk Takers in East Vail's Avalanche Zone

While traditional indoor moviegoing remains a dicey proposition given our current public health situation, the old-school experience of driving your car to watch a blockbuster on a billboard-sized outdoor screen is making a comeback thanks to the pandemic. And Minturn is no exception. Josh Frank, founder of Austin-based Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, officially announced that the pop-up outdoor cineplex he bills as "America's Highest Drive-In" will return to Minturn's Little Beach Park on May 28. The summer season debut? "Call of the Wild," an appropriate kick-off given the backdrop (the craggy ridges of Vail and Battle Mountain) and an outdoorsy crowd that's been under quarantine lockdown since mid-March. "During these strange times ... we are hoping to bring these options to the valley for our mountain community to take advantage of as our friends and fans in Austin are currently," says Frank. And they are. As of May 19, all parking slots at the drive-in's May 28 debut were sold out. Luckily, there will be many more nights and films (from "The Original Muppet Movie" to "Independence Day") screening through the end of August.

Find the complete summer schedule, and reserve your tickets, here. Season pass for one car + two occupants, from $175; individual car slot (includes two occupants), from $27.


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