If you're a fan of the retro drive-in movie theater experience but not a fan of long drives to Broward County or the semi-slimy ambiance of the Swap Shop, we have good news: A new drive-in, authentic all the way down to the vintage car speakers, is slated to open in Wynwood by October.
Josh Frank, who launched the Blue Starlite mini urban drive-in in Austin, Texas, in 2009, has moved to Miami -- and he's brought the concept of a conveniently located, smaller-scale drive-in theater with him.
"The Blue," as Frank affectionately refers to the theater, is a blend of retro aesthetic and modern execution. Like the drive-ins of the 1950s, the Blue allows audiences to watch films from the comfort of their cars, with speakers hanging from the windows to provide the sound. (Frank purchased the speakers on eBay and restored them himself.) Unlike old-timey drive-ins, the Blue accommodates just a few dozen vehicles at a time; in Austin, the number is capped at 50.
"This is a very intimate experience," Frank explains. "Having a drive-in that catered to so few people, where each car feels like it's their night, that was a big lightbulb. Miami is so huge that when you do go out for entertainment, you are just one of many. And one of the things that I try to do with the Blue is create a going-out experience on more of a human scale."
The concept became immensely popular in Austin; even now, the business has a respectable four stars on Yelp. So why expand to Florida?
Frank says the move was, first and foremost, one of convenience: "My wife was born and raised in Miami and wanted to move back here for the next phase of our lives." But it's also fertile film ground, he explains. "Miami is a big, metropolitan city, [especially] compared to Austin, with lots of art. But it doesn't seem like there's a lot of small entertainment businesses. In Austin, there are tons of them, which is where I got my chops. I had a lot of competition... In Miami, it's a huge city with tons of bars and restaurants and art but [not as many] small, indie film experiences."
Frank hasn't settled on a location yet; he's working with developer David Lombardi to find the perfect place in Wynwood, "anywhere between 29th Street and 36th Street," he laughs. One possibility: a lot adjacent to O Cinema. But don't expect any art-house theater wars.
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"I want to respect the godfathers," Frank says, noting he's met with O Cinema cofounder Kareem Tabsch and hopes to partner with the theater when the Blue opens. Rather than showing indie films like he did in Austin, which would compete directly with O Cinema and Miami's other art-house theaters, he'll show classics like Back to the Future and American Graffiti. "I think it'd be cool if there was this block that was the place to go for movies in Miami."
The official opening date hasn't yet been set. Frank is aiming for an opening sometime between this September and October. In the meantime, you can learn more at miamiurbandrivein.com.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.