Looking for something different, maybe even something a little old school? Here's a great activity that's perfect for a date night – it's private, socially distant, comfortable, a throwback to a more simple time of life. Visiting a drive-in movie theater could be just the thing to for you!
Believe it or not, there are quite a few drive-ins located in and around Tampa for a night of nostalgic fun. You can watch from the car or set up chairs, but either way, it’ll be an experience to remember. Plus, you'll be contributing to keeping the drive-in movie theater experience alive and well here in Florida. Some drive in theaters allow you to bring your own food and drinks, other drive in theaters “prohibit” it (but let's be realistic – nobody is searching your car, so be smart about it!).
Silver Moon Drive-In Theater
4100 New Tampa Hwy Lakeland, FL 33815
At Lakeland's Silver Moon Drive-In Theater, take your pick from two screens featuring a nightly double feature of different first run movies. The concession area is stocked with affordably-priced drinks (including beer!), popcorn and other snacks. On a chilly night, you can even get hot cocoa. Similar to the Funlan Drive In, the Silver Moon also hosts a weekly swap shop during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. If you want to enjoy dinner before the show, head out early to visit Lakeland's cool food hall, The Joinery. It's about a 15-minute drive from the theater.
Admission is $6 per adult ($2 per kiddo) and includes both movies.
Ruskin Family Drive-In Movie Theater
5011 US Highway 41 North Ruskin, FL 33572
South of Tampa you'll find the Ruskin Family Drive-In Movie Theater, which has been around since the hey-day of drive-in theaters in the '50s. Admission grants you access to watch both drive in movies featured nightly on the drive in movie theater's single screen. Snacks, drinks and popcorn (only $5 for a large) are available for purchase at the onsite snack bar. There's a $5 fee per car if you opt to bring in your own food and drinks (no alcohol allowed). Sure you could sneak stuff in, but come on, it's just $5, help a drive in theater out!
If you're looking to do date night with the kids in tow, this family-friendly drive in movie theater is your best bet. Admission is cheap and there's even a play area for the kids. You can even bring the family dog; friendly pups on leashes are welcome to join in the drive-in movie experience.
Admission is $6 per person, $1 for kids 5-8 years old and free for kids under 4. Payment is cash only. Check out their Facebook page for updates, too!
Joy-Lan Drive-In Movie Theater
16414 U.S. 301 Dade City, FL 33523
Since 1950, the Joy-Lan Drive-In Movie Theater has been providing a prime movie experience. At this Tampa Bay area drive-in theater, you can enjoy back-to-back flicks Wednesday-Sunday on the largest digital screen in Pasco County, just north of Tampa Bay. Joy-Lan is also the last remaining drive-in movie theater in the county, so keep the drive-in movie experience alive by paying it a visit. A concession stand serves up snacks including popcorn, hot dogs, pizza, soft drinks and more for nominal fees. Plan to arrive 30 minutes before showtime to snag a good spot.
Admission is $6 per adult and $2 per kid.
Ocala Drive-In Theater
4850 S Pine Ave, Ocala, FL 34480
If you're looking to visit multiple drive-ins movie theaters throughout the state, make the 1.5-hour trip north to Ocala Drive-In. Choose from nightly double features on two separate screens. FYI: bringing outside food is not permitted at this drive in theater so hit the concession stand if you're hungry. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome here, too.
Admission is $6 per adult and $3 for kids (free for kiddos 5 and under).
Tips for a Drive-In Movie Theater Date
- Bring blankets and pillows from home for an extra comfy movie-watching snuggle session. This is especially fun on a chilly night! Most theaters, like Rooftop Cinema Club, allow you to watch from the bed of a truck or back of an SUV.
- Turn your car back on in between movies if you're worried about your battery running low. Most theaters have jumper cables in the event your battery dies.
- Snack bar sales largely keep drive-in movie theaters in operation, so spring for the popcorn and support the theater if you can.
- Always arrive early (30-45 minutes before showtime) to stake out your spot! Trust us, you'll want time to get situated, set up your car or chairs, and visit the concessions for essentials like popcorn and sodas.
- For drive in movie theaters with multiple screens, you must choose one screen and stick to it. You won't be permitted to move about from one screen to the other.
- Newer offerings, like Rooftop Cinema Club in south Tampa, offer totally contactless ticket ordering and food ordering options.
Looking for other outdoor activities? Check out 25 Outdoor Activities to Try Together Before Summer and Outdoor Dining Guide: 50+ Places to Eat Outside in Tampa Bay.
Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-in
Suggest Edit2302 E Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL 33610
Phone : 813-234-2311
Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-in Website
Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-in Facebook Page
Get Directions to Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-in
|Open Year Round:||Yes|
|Admission Price:||$7 Adults, $2 Kids|
|Sound:||88.3, 88.7, 92.1|
About Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-inThe Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-in (originally known as simply the Fun Lan Drive-in) is located in Tampa, FL. Originally a single screen drive-in when it opened in 1950, the Swap Shop Fun Lan Drive-in added 2 additional screens over the years to become a 3 screen drive-in. But sometime after 2013, they went back to showing movies on just two screens. It is part of the Swap Shop chain of drives-in in Florida and holds Swap Meets at the site on the weekends. The drive-in is open nightly throughout the year and is a great value at $7 for Adults and only $2 for Kids.
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Joy-Lan Drive-In Theatre
HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Driven To See The Big Screen (2003)
This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on July 4, 2003.
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
DADE CITY - A slice of Americana is tucked along busy U.S. 301, just north of downtown.
Patrons — some in pajamas — still head there to hang clunky speakers on their car windows and watch the latest movies on a big outdoor screen.
The Joy-Lan Drive-In, one of 10 drive-in theaters left in the state, has survived 53 years, and manager Ray Patterson and his wife, Doris, hope to have a grand anniversary celebration next summer.
They’re seeking patrons with memorabilia, nostalgic memories and any information about Joy-Lan’s history. The couple also want to spread the word about the drive-in’s existence, hoping it will be preserved for future generations.
“I went when I was a child and now I take my grandchild,” 52-year-old Doris said. “I want him to be able to take his grandchildren. But people don't even know it’s open.”
Doris has what she calls Joy-Lan’s “birth certificate,” an occupational license dated Oct. 25, 1950.
According to The Dade City Banner, the drive-in opened March 9, 1950, with the showing of Challenge to Lassie, starring Edmund Gwenn, Donald Crisp and the legendary collie.
The Banner announced on Jan. 20, 1950, that construction was to begin on the theater. Carl Floyd of Haines City, manager of the Floyd Theatres chain, said the $55,000 drive-in would be completed in five weeks. It would have room for 250 vehicles.
“The new theatre will be an exact duplicate of two Tampa drive-ins, the Dale Mabry drive-in, and the new Funland [Fun-Lan] theatre,” The Banner reported.
Contractor Ed Jenner built both Tampa drive-ins and was hired for the Joy-Lan job. He had built about 20 other theaters throughout the country during the previous two years.
“The drive-in here will be modern in every respect with individual automatic speakers and the latest RCA equipment,” The Banner reported.
Floyd Theatres also owned the Pasco Theatre in Dade City which, like the Vivian Theatre in Lacoochee, was a “walk-in” movie house. Both theaters no longer exist.
“Drive-In Theatre Opened in Dade City Last Night,” proclaimed The Banner on March 10, 1950. The Joy-Lan had risen from a field in six weeks, “near record time.”
Charles R. Lambert, former assistant manager of the Pasco Theatre, managed the new drive-in, working with Betty Jo Green, Betty Jane Drawdy and Edward McNally.
Lassie Leads The Way
The Joy-Lan was open seven nights a week, with two shows nightly: at 7 and 9.
“Almost unique for theatregoers will be the feature of no previews or advertising trailers. The only interruption between the first and second shows each night will be a five-minute intermission,” The Banner said.
Along with Challenge to Lassie, the premier included Down Dakota Way, starring Dale Evans and Roy Rogers.
Good Sam, with Gary Cooper and Ann Sheridan, was on the marquee for March 12 and 13, 1950.
Children 12 and younger who accompanied their parents got in free, and Doris Shirah, now Patterson, was among them.
“I've been coming here ever since I was 5 or 6 years old,” she said.
As a mom, Doris brought her own daughter, Jeanne Carver, now 38. Doris now brings her 9-year-old grandson, Michael J. Carver.
Bring Your Own Snacks
Things have remained pretty much the same during those three generations. For example, Ray runs the projector that was used when the drive-in opened.
Even the concession stand is the same, Doris said, with prices still relatively low compared with those in today’s walk-in theaters. A large popcorn is $2.75 and a large drink is $2. But patrons may bring their own refreshments, too.
“We don't mind people bringing food with them. What we like is seeing people enjoying seeing the movie,” Ray said.
Admission is $2.50 per person, with children 9 and younger admitted free. Even with those prices, Doris said, “you'd be surprised” that people still try to sneak in.
Thursday night is carload night, when as many people as can pack into a vehicle are admitted for $2.50.
“Don't matter if you bring 20 people in, it’s still two dollars and a half,” Ray said.
Joy-Lan’s admission is the lowest of any American drive-in, according to the Web site www.driveinmovie.com. The Pattersons don’t know what patrons paid when Joy-Lan opened, but many other drive-ins charged about 40 cents per person in 1950.
From Boom To Near Bust
The country’s first drive-in theater opened in February 1938 in Miami, the second one in Jacksonville the following year.
Growth was slow at first, with 22 drive-ins operating in Florida in 1948. But within five years, that jumped to 158 and the boom was on.
The peak years for outdoor theaters in America were 1955-59. Then the numbers began to decline. But the closing of drive-ins in Florida was more gradual than in other states.
There were 133 drive-ins in Florida in 1972, but that dropped to 117 by 1977. In 1982 there were 93 drive-ins remaining and more than half of those closed within five years. Only 42 drive-ins were left in 1987, and by 1998 there were 19 in Florida.
Joy-Lan’s fate looked similarly doomed in the 1990s. The drive-in closed in early 1995 when its parent company, Mastec Inc., sold the Pasco Theatre to another company. A condition of the sale required the drive-in to shut down to avoid competition.
Floyd, the original owner of Joy-Lan, had built a company of more than 50 indoor theaters and drive-ins in Central Florida. In 1969 he named Harold Spears as president of Floyd Enterprises.
That company was sold in the late 1970s to Burnup & Sims Inc., which retained Spears as president of Floyd Enterprises. Mastec merged with Burnup & Sims during the early 1900s. Soon, Mastec sold all its indoor theaters to another theater company, Carmike, but continued to operate the drive-ins. Then the drive-ins gradually were closed and, in 1996, Spears was told to close the remaining drive-ins.
To save some for future generations, Spears formed Sun South Theatres and bought the Joy-Lan, along with the Silvermoon in Lakeland, Fun-Lan in Tampa and Lake Worth Drive-in, formerly the Trail Drive-in.
Joy-Lan’s New Life
Spears reopened Joy-Lan on Oct. 11, 1996, with the sci-fi thriller Independence Day showing on the original screen.
Like many former drive-ins, Joy-Lan took on operations of a flea market/swap shop while it was closed and has continued to operate the sales from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
It helps the drive-in survive, Ray said.
Joy-Lan is closed Monday and Tuesday nights, but he would like to open it every night. That would be possible, Ray said, if more people knew the drive-in existed.
Those who do come drive from as far as Sarasota, Orlando and Inverness. Some nights there are as many as 180 cars, he said.
Joy-Lan can accommodate about 400 vehicles, he said, because people can park where they want and tune in on 87.9 FM. But if they want to listen to the movie the old-fashioned way, they have to park in one of the first four rows where about 80 speakers are hung from car windows.
Movie times are 8:45 and 10:30 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. On Wednesdays and Thursdays the movie begins at 8:45 p.m. unless there’s a double feature.
Ray takes requests for new releases, changing the films on Fridays. Joy-Lan shows only new releases, he said.
“Our motto is, ‘If there’s not but one car here we still play the movie,’” Ray said. “I've only shut down one time.”
The weather was so bad, he said, that he had to shut off the projector. But he couldn’t do it fast enough to prevent the projector’s lightbulb from burning a nickel-sized hole through the film strip.
All three cars that weathered the storm got free passes.
The web site of the theater is here.
Fun Lan Drive-In (Tampa, Florida)
flea market, drive-in theater
The Fun Lan Drive-in has four screens and shows first run movies 365 nights a years. Wednesday thru Sunday the lot is used as a flea market.
Coordinates: 27°59'51"N 82°26'0"W
Drive fun in lan
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