The Abandoned Stardust 17 Drive-In

Stardust 17 Drive-In, Grafton, North Dakota

In the course of his travels, Terry stumbled upon the Stardust 17 Drive-In on the west side of Grafton.  The Stardust held 300 cars and hosted movie showings for decades. According to one online account, the Stardust 17’s screen blew down in a windstorm in October of 1991.  There were some initial discussions about getting the drive-in going again, but cost put the brakes on a recovery.  When we visited in 2011, the theater had been idle for years.

When we visited in 2011, we found the place a shadow of its former self.  All of the window speakers were gone.  The concession stand’s roof was caving in, and the ticket booth had deteriorated significantly.

Stardust 17

The marquee out front is from the Strand Twin Theater in Grafton.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

The Lake Park Drive-In in Williston, which was the last operating Drive-In in the state, is now closed, leaving North Dakota with no more operating drive-ins.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota
Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

Update: we’re told the remains of the screen were taken down a couple years ago. The Stardust 17 is no more.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

A couple years later, we visited another vacant drive-in theater, the Pineview Drive-In in Nebraska.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

I’m old enough the remember the waning days of the drive-in era, and although there are next generation drive-in theater operators making a go of it lately, the magic of the drive-in is not likely to be recaptured. It would be great to live it all again… to smell the hot dogs and popcorn on the breeze of a hot summer night, swatting mosquitoes and playing on the playground so Mom and Dad could smooch in the car…

Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota
Stardust 17 Drive-In, North Dakota

Read more about the Stardust 17 and other Drive-In movie theaters here.

Stardust 17 Drive-In, Grafton, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

23 Comments on “The Abandoned Stardust 17 Drive-In

  1. Good pictures. I can envision the speaker hanging on the window watching a double-feature.

  2. Would like to see the drive in movies brought back!!!
    I have never been to one.

  3. I attended many movies all though high school at this drive! I even remember the grand opening…it was quite a spectacle! Too bad it was never restored. Lots of great memories.

  4. Drive-ins are the best. There is on that is still open in warren MN. For those who don’t want to drive that far. My mom use to bring my sister and me to the dusk till dawn nights loved those nights cuz we got to stay up it morning.

  5. If you want to go to a drive in movie, just go to the sky-view drive in in Warren MN, not that far from grafton or grand forks or crookston. they don’t have window speakers anymore, they use the fm radio for the movie audio.

  6. I remember working at both the Strand and the Stardust back in 1980 to 1986. The Stardusk was packed in for the dusk to dawn movies

  7. Guys – My late Mom lived in Grafton for several years, and we spent lots of time there. I had no idea that there used to be a drive-in theatre. Again, you’ve wowed me.

    Your website is super, the writing is fantastic, and the photos are superb. Congrats!

    Hope you are both well.


  8. This is the Historic Drive Inn where I discovered beer, friends, and girls. Many memories of long ago…

  9. Unfortunately, the Lake Park Drive-In, Williston ND, closed fall of 2011. 🙁

    • Yep, my family owned that one from way back. Good times, working there.

  10. Just a side note late this fall they took down the rest of the movie screen so that portion of the landmark and history is now gone.

  11. Pingback: Ten Lost North Dakota Places :

  12. Pingback: Abandoned Pineview Drive-In Theater : Ghosts of North America

  13. The Starlite in Litchfield, MN was recently purchased by the Quincers of Wadena, MN, the operators of the Cozy theater in that city and of the former Wadena Drive-In theater. It’s my understanding that they intend to continue operating the Starlite.

  14. One of the advantages of moving to the Twin Cities I guess- there’s at least 2 drive-in’s within an hour drive. We try to go at least one time each summer. We saw Mission Impossible this summer! 🙂

  15. I watched so many movies there… And took full advantage of the Thursday night $5 /car deal many times. Besides being the landmark for the turn off of hwy 17 to our family farm 2 miles north, Stardust 17 was part of my coming of age. Dusk ’till dawn!!

  16. If you were in grafton nd, there was a drive in still operating as of two years ago less than a 30min drive from there. It’s in Warren Minnesota and I took my in-laws to see wolverine in summer 2013. I grew up in grafton and remember going to the old drive-in before that storm. They used to do dusk to dawn films and I can remember see snow white there- I was quite young then.

  17. I wonder where the “17” came from. My great-great-uncle Emil Dey operated a hamburger place in Grafton, which was called the “17 Drive-In”. I was just now looking at a 1965 photo of it, from my father’s collection. As far as I know, it had no connection to a movie drive-in.

    I stayed with my great-great-uncle Emil and aunt Clara for a few days in summer 1967, but don’t think I ever had a chance to see the drive-in.

    I do remember that Uncle Emil was confident that a place like McDonalds would never be able to make hamburgers as good as his.

  18. The “17” refers to the highway that runs east and west through Grafton ND, and both the drive in theater and the hamburger stand were located next to the highway.

  19. Sorry drive-in lovers I sympathize with you. I am a big drive-in movie lover myself from Michigan. If any of you get to Michigan we still have eight left. Three drive-in have the old speakers!!! Drive-in nut!!!! Craig

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