Here’s another great example of a local TV station celebrating a local drive-in. Instead of the coming of spring (which may have no meaning in Florida, for all I can tell), it was a tie-in with the Oscars ceremony that prompted ABC affiliate WFTS, Tampa Bay’s News Leader, to run a visit with the owners of the Ruskin Family Drive-In Theatre in Ruskin FL.
“Ted Freiwald helped build the Ruskin Family Drive-In in 1952,” the story begins, and he’s been keeping it running for most of its existence. Although he made the digital conversion years ago, the Ruskin Family still has the old-school car window speakers as well as FM sound.
You really should watch this affectionate look at a local institution. And if you want to read a little more about the Ruskin, check out my virtual visit there during the year of the Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey.
The City of Parkland FL hosts a free semi-annual drive-in at its equestrian center, and its next date is this Saturday, when it’s showing Cars 3.
According to Special Events Coordinator Alexandra Valle, the program started about four years ago, before she arrived. They rent a 33-foot high inflatable screen from Twilight Features, which also handles the projector. Local businesses sponsor the event.
Unlike a lot of places that show movies in the park for viewers on blankets, (although Parkland does that too), this is a true drive-in experience. Valle said that they’ve fit 800 cars into the area, which also has limited grassy seating near the screen. Many people sit on top of their cars to see the movie at a better view on the flat field.
Which brings me to my metaphysical question: Is this a drive-in theater? It’s always in the same place, and cars truly drive in to watch a movie. Sure, it uses an impermanent screen, but so does the Blue Starlite. But Valle argued against the notion. “We utilize the Equestrian Center large open field and raised berm to show a movie twice a year,” she said. “It is not built on a slant for a real drive-in experience. We also use this field for other special events such as our Farmers’ Market.”
I don’t think a flat viewing area or a market prevent the Parkland from being a drive-in; just think of all the drive-ins with flea markets. On the other hand, if it has only two active dates a year, that puts it in Manistique territory, and I haven’t added that one to the Carload list. I guess I need to add a minimum to the definition of an active drive-in.
In any event, it’s great to see a city provide a taste of the drive-in to its residents and visitors. I hope that more municipalities move beyond movies in the park to something more like Parkland’s almost-drive-in.
It’s been over a year since I made my virtual visit to the Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre in Lakeland FL. Such innocent times! It was the first week of my Drive-in-a-Day odyssey, back when I was still skimping on historical details, and I hadn’t yet noticed how cool it is to embed a video with my visit report.
Today I’ll correct that last omission. Here’s a YouTube video describing a typical night at the Silver Moon, supplemented by old photos and video clips. Enjoy!