MONTROSE, Colo. – At what is believed to be Colorado’s oldest family-owned and operated drive-in theatre, owner Pamela DeVries Friend says she sells nostalgia more than anything.
The Star Drive-In Theatre in Montrose was built in 1949 and opened April 19, 1950. Earlier this year, the county designated the theatre a historical landmark, cementing its continuing legacy on the Western Slope.
“I still hang speakers. You still come in, you’ve got FM sound for speakers, and it is movies on the big screen – an 80-by-90-foot screen,” says Friend.
Her father wanted to start another business back in 1949, got to talking with some people in Denver, and built and ran the theatre when Pamela was a kid. She took over in the 1970s when she turned 18.
“It’s been family oriented since Day 1,” she says. “My family has all worked there. I have seen four and five generations of employees, as well as four and five generations of customers.”
Friend says in their hey-day, drive-in theatres numbered above 5,000. Today, there are only a little over 300.
“Very few in Colorado that are originally, actual drive-ins,” Friend said. “I am now a historical landmark, which I think is pretty important.”
Families come there for the popcorn and the nostalgic feel of what once was a class summer pastime.
“We are very, very much public oriented,” Friend said. “We worry about what they think and how happy they are. We try to make it a happy place for them, and the drive-in does bring families together.”
After decades of running the theatre, Friend says it’s still rewarding to see families come together there.
“They bring their kids, their grandkids. They load them up in the car and they’re all out there. And if for a little while they can share that, there’s something to be said for that.”