Enjoy Sarasota FL’s drive-in history

Old photo of Trail Drive-In Theatre screen

Photo from the Sarasota Department of Historical Resources, via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Jeff Lahurd gave us all a present in the Sunday edition of the Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune. Lahurd outlined what might be the full history of the five drive-in theaters in Sarasota and the three in nearby Bradenton.

Although the article often veers into explanations for those poor souls who have never experienced a drive-in, it contains a lot of great information. For example, the Trail Drive-In “served fried shrimp and chicken dinners, pizza and sandwiches, while the Siesta had a cafeteria styled restaurant and a snack bar ‘to keep you wonderfully refreshed.’”

Hugh Thomas, owner of the Trail and the Siesta, prided himself on keeping his theaters modern, clean, and inviting to families. He claimed that each of his projectors cost $14,000 and were “precision-made, like watches”.

According to Lahurd, the Bee Ridge was the last drive-in to open in Sarasota, in 1969. “To maintain the comfort factor, the theater offered individual (air conditioning) units, with the added benefit that it kept the mosquitoes out — mostly,” he wrote. I wonder how car-unit air conditioners worked.

One thing that Lahurd didn’t mention is that Sarasota residents can still visit the four-screen Fun Lan Drive-In about an hour’s drive away in Tampa. Anyway, I hope you’ve figured out by now that to experience all this fun nostalgia and a few nice photos, you really ought to go read it!