Elation poured in when Houston native Khairi Sharif tweeted that he’d created the first Black-owned drive-in theater in EaDo last month. More than 12,000 replies, in fact, the majority wishing him luck on his endeavor and saying they’d be there to support him.
Like many, Sharif, 26, recognized that Houstonians needed a comfortable and socially distanced space to nestle in front of a screen with our favorite treats. But he wanted to do more with Space City Shows: He wanted to create an opportunity for Black entrepreneurs, like himself, who are struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
Black-owned businesses, Forbes reported this summer, have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19; businesses owned by members of the Latinx community and Asian Americans have also been more heavily affected, though not as much as Black-owned businesses.
“It was a priority to give people that look like me an opportunity, just like the other communities give their people opportunities,” he tells Houstonia. “We have to be there to help one another out as best as we can—it’s about making big steps together.”
Sharif started working to open his business in May, and with his family’s support, pushed his cinematic dream to fruition in the beginning of September. A blissful blend of hilarity and romance filled the venue’s opening night with Rush Hour 2 playing in the early show and Love Jones as the late-show offering. Other movies have included Bad Boys Forever, animated film Madagascar, and Happy Gilmore, but right now, Space City Shows is tapping into its spooky side with a lineup of films perfect for the Halloween season.
“I just try to pick classic favorites,” says Sharif. “The selection is a wide variety of family, love, and comic movies. I try to pick something that everyone would watch.”
Whatever film Sharif picks for that weekend, patrons sure get a great view of it. Space City Shows features a 20-by-40-foot screen supported by three shipping containers, with Houston’s ravishing skyline serving as a backdrop to your movie experience. In addition to a lineup that incorporates both classic and modern flicks, the venue also redefines the retro drive-in tradition with a live DJ onsite to entertain you before the opening credits roll and after the final frame fades to black.
And since no cinematic experience is complete without snacks, Sharif couples his selection of films with delicious food from Black-owned food trucks. Past trucks have included The Foodie Barr, Nacho Monsters, Akira Candy Factory, and Off The Leash Hot Dogs.
Whatever the future holds, Sharif is excited to keep bringing a slice of joy to Houstonians amid such uncertainty, and he hopes his leap of faith inspires other young entrepreneurs to keep after their own big ideas.
“We have two options in life, see the opportunities or see the hurdles," he says. "I chose to see the opportunity during this unfamiliar time.”
Tickets are $30 per car (up to 6 people per vehicle). Space City Shows, 2300 Runnels St. More information at spacecityshows.com.