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Amid noise ordinance battle, Starlite Drive-in opens for the season

Season kicked off showing "2001: A Space Odyssey"

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – The Starlite Drive-in Theater in Christiansburg showed its first movie of the season Thursday night, just days before the town decides on a proposed noise ordinance.

That's after complaints from neighbors that the theater's speakers are too loud. 

A small group of people turned out to support the drive-in about two and a half hours before the opening. 

It's been a difficult few years for the business since it installed, new, louder speakers in 2016.

The Starlite's 65th season started with a showing of the 1968 classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Two years ago, people living behind and around the drive-in started complaining about the volume coming from the nightly shows.

Police cited Starlite with a violation for that extra volume

Owner Peggy Beasley is making some changes that will hopefully keep everyone happy.

She's offering pocket radios to rent for $10. 

"Friday and Saturday, I'm not going to have any sound playing on the lot after the first movie. The second movie will be on a car radio. And then Sunday night, I'm not going to play but one movie. So that ought to be some satisfaction to somebody," Beasley said.

A proposed noise ordinance for commercial properties would be limited to 65 decibels, which according to a Chrisitiansburg spokesperson:

is how loud the noise can be at the receiving property. So, it's not how loud Starlite can play movies, for example, but rather that at a neighboring property in a commercial zone, the noise must register at 65 decibels or below. At a neighboring property that sits in a residential area, the noise must register at 52 decibels or below at night (or 57 in the day). Nighttime hours start at 10 p.m. on all nights, except at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  

Ten News reporter Irisha Jones watched the entire movie from inside the news car and could barely hear the sound coming from the outside speakers unless completely out of the car and even then, it was really hard to hear. 

Those at the movie say they plan on using their car radios to enjoy movies from now on. 

"Newer cars and fresher batteries and doing your radio is the best bet because you're not going to sit that long so you're battery is not going to go down to bad," said Ben Peyton who was at the Starlite on Thursday. 

Without satisfactory sound, it will be hard for Starlite to operate. But Beasley hopes starting this season off quietly is a step in the right direction.

"I don't think it should (be closed) just because one person thinks it's a little loud. Because it serves more than one person and a serves pretty much the whole community for a long time and it brings a lot of revenue and it attracts lot of people," said Logan Bechtler, who also attended the showing.

The town council will vote on the noise ordinance Tuesday.

This weekend, the Starlite will be showing "Black Panther."