Polk County’s last drive-in attracts large crowds with indoor movie theaters still closed

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Memorial Day weekend is typically the kickoff for the summer blockbuster season. But not this year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indoor theaters are still closed and major movie releases are delayed.

So on the Saturday night of the holiday weekend, movie lovers in Lakeland took a trip down memory lane.

Before sunset, the cars lined up at the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre, the last of its kind in Polk County.

Two of the featured films this weekend are family classics, The Goonies and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The other two options are original and iconic superhero films, Superman and Batman.

“We got here like 30 minutes earlier than the gates opened just to get a good spot,” Kelly White told 8 On Your Side.

White and her family are back for the second weekend in a row.

“We were that impressed and of course the weather is nice, give a chance to get out the house,” James White said.

Viewing habits have changed from when the films featured Saturday night first premiered decades ago.

“Most of the time we wait for them to come out on Amazon or Netflix,” Steve Patino said.

“To be honest with you, we don’t hit the regular movie theater as much we look forward to coming to here,” Mr. White said.

For these families, there is something special about introducing a classic film to their children on the big screen.

“We have a couple kids with us that have never seen Goonies before so I’m looking forward to sharing that with them,” White said.

Shane Bishop said he grew up going to the Silver Moon and he also misses the indoor movie-going experience.

“But I understand there’s a lot of restrictions,” he said.

Eager to see something new in theaters, Bishop added he is OK with watching these nostalgic films again.

“Obviously, we’d like to see first-run movies,” he said, “but they’re not available of course in theaters. For now, I’m enjoying the time I can see these.”

With other retro films coming soon, there are reasons for these families to come back, too.

“They’re having Psycho next weekend, so its gonna be great,” Mrs. White said.

There is no announced date for when indoor movie theaters will reopen in Florida. They are included in Phase Two of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to restart the state’s economy.

Staff at Silver Moon told 8 On Your Side some nights their outdoor venue has been filled with almost 500 cars.

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