If you grew up in this area during the 70s and 80s, you undoubtedly remember that Sioux Falls at one time had not one but two outdoor drive-in theaters.

The East Park and the Starlite Drive-In. They both were the definition of "the big screen" back in the day and were one of the most popular places to hang out during the summer months if you were a teenager in the Sioux Empire.

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Actually, both theaters were around long before the '70s and '80s.

The East Park, located at 3709 East 10th Street in the old K-Mart lot, which is now a Runnings Store, first fired up their projector in September of 1948.

It had a good run, as it remained open until (September 4) 1978. The very last movies showing that night were Grand Theft Auto, the movie not the video game, and Airport 77, starring Jack Lemmon, James Stewart, and George Kennedy.

Some of my fondest memories growing up as a teenager were spent at the Starlite Drive-In. Like the East Park, the Starlite opened in September of 1948 as well.

I was reading that the owners at the time hoped the outdoor movie season would run into at least October. In Sioux Falls? Yeah, good luck with that! Some years it's snowing by Halloween in this state.

ROADTRIP: Here Are The 7 Remaining Drive-In Theaters In South Dakota

The Starlite Theater was constructed on the south side of West Soo Highway, which is now known as Burnside Street.

At the time the Starlite opened, it had the largest theater screen in all of South Dakota. It measured 38 by 56 feet, and the screen was rumored to be able to withstand wind gusts in excess of 106 miles per hour.

Anyone that has spent significant time in a drive-in theater has to remember those old metal RCA speakers that clipped onto your car windows. They would hang on the posts that you would pull up next to in your car in the lot. High tech stuff back then, let me tell ya.

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I can remember thinking how cool it was when you could start listening to the audio track from the movie on your car radio. Now that was state of the art!

As I mentioned earlier, I remember going to the Starlite almost every Friday night in the summer as a teenager. My memories get a little foggy after I got there most evenings, thanks to the Starlite's lax enforcement policy on alcohol.

I know the Starlite did have a no-alcohol policy. But that never stopped anyone from bringing in their own hooch. Management never seemed to care all that much, as long as you kept your beer cans inside the car. Plus, the car windows were fogged up most of the time anyway, so the chances of getting caught drinking were slim.

By the mid-'80s the home video business really started to take a huge bite out of the drive-in theater biz. Consequently, the Starlite pulled the plug on their projectors on Friday, (July 5) 1985. What were the last movies showing that night? How about the blockbusters Just One Of The Guys and 2010.

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These days, you and the family can still get the drive-in experience here in the Sioux Empire thanks to the Vern Drive-In located in Luverne, Minnesota. Just 27 short miles away from Sioux Falls.

However, things have changed a bit throughout the years, and I am not talking about all the technological advancements.

I was recently looking at the full list of rules and policies for the Vern Drive-In. One thing that caught my eye, was "no guns on the premises."  I don't remember ever seeing that one on the list in the '70s and '80s. Kinda sad.

One thing that remains the same: the movies still start at dusk.

Beats the heck out of watching the movie Just One Of The Guys on video at home, if you ask me. Sorry about that, if you're a big William Zabka fan.

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Here Are The 7 Remaining Drive-In Theaters In South Dakota

If you were born last century...you know, in the nineteen hundreds (ugh)...you may have spent a summer evening in the car watching movies. I don't mean on your phone, I mean at the drive-in movie theater!

If you were in Sioux Falls in the 1970s and '80's you may remember seeing Jaws and Indiana Jones at The East Park or the Starlite Drive-In. Both drive-ins opened just after World War 2. The East Park didn't make it out of the '70s, closing in 1978. The Starlite survived long enough to see the birth of home video, closing in 1985.


Drive-in movies had a bit of a resurgence during the pandemic. They were a way to go out and do something social without getting out of your car.

If you tried one during that time, or you remember the fun of a warm summer evening watching movies on that giant screen there are still places in South Dakota and around Sioux Falls you can do it.

Road Trip-Worthy Restaurants Within 90 Minutes of Sioux Falls

Veer off the beaten path. Take a road trip and try some favorite small-town eateries. Just by driving a few miles, you could find some delicious hidden gems.

From steaks to seafood, chislic to chicken, these are out-of-the-way unexpected finds that will make your taste buds tingle.

Here's a list of 14 Road Trip-Worthy Restaurants within 90 minutes of Sioux Falls.

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