Starplex theater serves community through retro drive-in

An+image+of+the+exterior+sign+of+EVO+Cinemas+Starplex+12+in+San+Marcos.+The+sign+has+a+yellow+star+up+top%2C+with+the+word+%22Starplex%22+below.

Star file photo

A file photo of at EVO Cinemas Starplex 12, located at 1250 Wonder World Dr in San Marcos.

Ryan Scanlin, Life and Arts Reporter

As the dusk settles on San Marcos, community members pull their cars into the parking lot of the decades-old EVO Starplex movie theater. Attendants roll on skates to the visitors, delivering popcorn and sodas as the projector shines fan-favorite films onto the side of the theater.

Although Texas’ safety guidelines have loosened since mid-March when movie theaters were forced to shut their doors, most movie theaters have still been unable to reopen.

Austin-based theater chain EVO Entertainment used this downtime as an opportunity to offer a throwback style of cinema to Texas communities by temporarily converting some theaters into drive-ins, giving the community a way to gather safely outdoors under the comfort of the silver screen.

Starplex theater in San Marcos, screening "The Wretched" on the side of the building at night.
Starplex drive-in is in full swing, screening The Wretched under the night sky in San Marcos. (Courtesy of Starplex)

EVO drive-in theaters are located in San Marcos, Kyle and Schertz. Sales and Marketing Manager for EVO Entertainment Elizabeth Lempeotis said the communities of these towns have been enjoying this new form of entertainment.

“People are just excited about being able to go outside and do something with their families instead of being stuck inside all the time,” Lempeotis said. “Honestly, I didn’t realize how many people love movie theater popcorn and were excited that they can go get popcorn.”

In addition to the film screenings, Starplex in San Marcos has recently screened a commencement ceremony for local high school graduates.

“We offered free graduations for any schools that wanted them,” Lempeotis said. “It gave them an opportunity to finish out their senior year and actually feel like they finished it.”

Customers visiting the drive-in theaters can also expect to see employees skating around the parking lot serving customers concessions. The idea to serve customers on rollerblades stemmed from Tyler Dunning, Starplex employee and mechanical engineering junior, and another Starplex employee.

“I honestly love this drive-in; I like being out here [and] talking to people,” Dunning said. “Usually, I’m on my feet; now I’m on my skates. It’s a little more fun.”

Employees at the drive-in wear face masks and keep their distance from visitors. Customers can order snacks online and the employees will roll-out and deliver to the car, double-bagging the food and handing it off with as little contact as possible.

During nights when the drive-in screens “Jurassic World”, Lempeotis said a Starplex employee dresses up in a dinosaur costume in an effort to provide customers with additional entertainment.

San Marcos Starplex theater employee wears a dinosaur costume and watches outdoor theater screen.
Starplex manager Samantha Gonzalez suits up as a dinosaur to add an dimension to a “Jurassic World” screening at the Starplex theater in San Marcos. (Courtesy of Starplex)

Dana White, general manager of the Starplex theater, has been enjoying the drive-in also. White has been with the theater for five years and said despite the theater being converted into a drive-in and having to use safer procedures for food handling, the experience hasn’t changed much.

“It’s exciting,” White said. “It’s really old school, not something you get to do all the time. I think it’s really fun.”

However, White and others wish more people would come out to enjoy the screenings. Lempeotis said there have been fewer people coming out to the San Marcos location than the Schertz and Kyle drive-ins; however, she said it is mainly dependent on the movie.

EVO’s Springtown Center theater in San Marcos is planning to re-open for in-venue movies July 8, adding to the few other locations already doing so. Masks are required for entry to these locations and customer temperatures are checked at the door. Seats in the theaters are distanced by a row and groups are limited to five people or less.

For more information on drive-in showtimes and movie screenings visit the EVO Drive-In website.


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