5 Florida Drive-In Theaters for a Fun Family Movie Night!

Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for HBO

By Giselle Balido

January 5, 2023

Would you like to try a novel experience, like enjoy a movie from the comfort of your own car? Then check out these cool places where you can park and watch.

Remember those old-time drive-in movies of yore? No? Well, in truth, most people don’t. That’s because so few remain in operation. However, there are still some holdovers that give you and your family or friends the opportunity to sample the joys of watching a movie from the (relative) comfort of your car. 

But first, a little history: Did you know that there were drive-ins as early as the 1910s, and that the first patented drive-in was opened on June 6, 1933, in New Jersey? Believe it or not, after creating a mini drive-in for his mother, Richard Hollingshead promoted it as a solution for people unable to comfortably fit into smaller movie theater seats. The popularity of the drive-in skyrocketed after World War II and reached its pinnacle in the late 1950s to mid-60s, with some 5,000 theaters across the country. 

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Sadly, beginning in the late 1960s, drive-in attendance began to decline due to improvements to home entertainment, from color television to VCRs and video rental in the early 1980s. However, the good news is that you can still participate in this classic American tradition in any one of these five drive-ins across the Sunshine State!

Swap Shop & Thunderbird Drive-In Theater, Ft. Lauderdale

Voted 2020’s Best Movie Theatre by Miami New Times, it features 14 screens, a giant video game arcade, a swap market, and a Ferrari Museum. The Swap Shop is open 365 days a year and regularly features new release movies but is not averse to showing an oldie every now and then. Film purists might be delighted to know that this cinematic experience is not provided via glaring LED screens, but with actual projectors.

Learn more HERE

Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre, Lakeland

Established in 1948, the romantically named Silver Moon is the last remaining drive-in of Polk County. This oldie but goodie has two screens usually showing first-run movies, with double features seven nights a week. The Drive-In menu includes pizza, nachos, candy, and, of course, popcorn. But don’t worry about loud popcorn munchers. You listen to the movie through your FM car radio. 

More good news? The Silver Moon welcomes leashed, well behaved pets and provides grassy areas around the theater for pet walking. However, only service pets are allowed in the concession area. And please ask Fido to be polite, as excessively barking pets may be asked to leave. 

Learn more HERE

Nite Owl Drive-In + Tropical Market, Miami 

Although smoking and alcohol are prohibited at the Nite Owl, moviegoers are welcome to bring folding chairs and sit in front of their vehicle when watching the movie (click here for more venue guidelines).

Created by Nayib Estefan, the son of two musicians you might have heard of (do the names Gloria and Emilio ring a bell?), this unique venue for movies sits on a 60,000-square-foot lot and sports a DCP 4K projector that allows it to display movies more clearly than most other outdoor theaters can.

Learn more HERE

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The Ruskin Family Drive-In Theatre, Ruskin

Since its first movie, “Singing in the Rain,” played in 1952, it has been a community gathering place with over 50 years of continuous service to Ruskin and South Hillsborough County. Strongly family-oriented, this drive-in never shows X or NC-17 rated films. 

Boasting a 2000-square-foot screen, a snack bar and clean parking lot, the place is open year-round and, they promise, “rain or shine, hot or cold, including holidays!”

Dogs are allowed, as long as they are kept on a leash, do not bark around people, and pet parents clean up after them.

Learn more HERE

Ocala Drive-In, Marion County

Good news, pet parents, this family theater allows you to bring your “4-legged family member.” And if you like a good snack with your movie, this drive-in’s concession stand has a menu offering pick up or delivery that includes everything from pizza, French fries, and jalapeño poppers, to pickles, boiled peanuts, ice cream, and popcorn. 

But man (and woman) does not live by popcorn alone, so of course you and the family can enjoy a movie on Florida’s largest screen and have fun in the venue’s game room. 

Learn more HERE

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Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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