ORLANDO, Fla. – June 6 marks National Drive-In Movie Day, and yes, drive-in theaters still exist in Florida.
For a fun throwback evening, or to introduce someone to the under-the-stars experience, several drive-ins are within a reasonable driving distance from Orlando.
The Ocala Drive-In Theatre opened in March 1948 but closed in 2003. John Watzke, who said he always wanted to have his own theater, reopened the drive-in in 2010. Watzke said his passion for movies comes from his family members, who have worked in theaters since 1913.
Watzke described going to a drive-in movie as an experience.
"You have families (who don't know each other) interacting," he said. "It's like a time warp when you go to a drive-in. The only time you see people on their phones is if they're taking pictures. Kids play with one another and people actually talk to each other."
Watzke said 75% of his customers are 21 to 45 years old.
Tickets cost $6 for adults and children ages 6 to 12. Children 5 and under are free.
"And it's a double-feature for that same price," Watzke said. "You're getting two movies for half the cost of one (in a regular theater)."
For those who haven't been to a drive-in movie, customers can sit in their cars while watching the movies, which Watzke said are new releases.
"They sit in their cars, on their cars, in the back of their trucks, or they bring lawn chairs," Watzke said. "I've seen people bring couches in the back of their pickups."
Watzke said he has regular customers who drive from Tallahassee and Melbourne, mostly because of the value and the fact that movies are more memorable at a drive-in.
"If someone watches a movie in a regular theater, they may remember a few things about it. But at a drive-in, you remember the movie, who you were with, what kind of car you were in and the whole experience."
If you haven't been to a drive-in previously, or if you haven't been in quite some time, you might want to give it a try.
Drive-in theaters in the Central Florida area
- Ocala Drive-in Theatre at 4850 S. Pine Ave. in Ocala. 352-629-1325
- Silver Moon Drive-in Theatre at 4100 New Tampa Highway in Lakeland. 863-682-0849
- Fun Lan Drive-in Theatre at 2302 E. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa. 813-234-2311
- Joy-Lan Drive-in Theatre at 16414 U.S. Highway 301 in Dade City. 352-567-5085
- Ruskin Family Drive-in Theatre at 5011 N. U.S. Highway 41 in Ruskin. 813-645-1455
Other drive-in theaters in Florida
- Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop at 3291 W. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. 954-791-7927
- Lake Worth Drive-in and Swap Shop at 3438 Lake Worth Road in Lake Worth. 561-965-3624