Drive-in theaters make a comeback in Central Florida amid COVID-19 pandemic

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — The Ocala Drive-In has been entertaining Central Florida’s movie fans since the late 1940s. And the iconic theater has been receiving international attention recently as one of the only theaters in the United States still showing new movies.


The theater has had to make some changes because of COVID-19. Parking spaces have been roped off, forcing cars farther apart. And owner John Watzke says he has hired more employees to deliver concessions directly to cars.

" I’m hoping this is kind of the rebirth of the drive-in," owner John Watzke said. “People realize, number one, how safe they are at a drive-in. Then number two, it’s more of an experience.”

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Other drive-in options are also popping up in Central Florida. EPIC Theatres has built 40-foot screens and outdoor projectors, showing movies on the sides of their buildings with crowds watching from their cars in the parking lot.

Epic has opened three drive-ins so far. One in Clermont, Deltona and St. Augustine.

Because movie studios have postponed almost all of the summer blockbusters, drive-ins have been turning to independent studios and classic films to screen instead.

Read: From salons to theme parks and shopping malls: What’s reopening in Central Florida and when?

Joe Kepner

Joe Kepner, WFTV.com

I unloaded the U-Haul in Orlando in 2008, just in time to cover the Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

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