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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

This Central Florida drive-in is the only theater showing first-run movies in the entire United States

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2020 at 12:20 PM

click to enlarge SCREENSHOT VIA GOOGLE MAPS
  • Screenshot via Google Maps
There’s only one theater in America showing first-run movies right now, and to get there you’re gonna have to drive your car to Ocala then park it at the local drive-in located at 4850 S. Pine Ave.

Writer Ernie Smith took to Twitter on April 15 to say, “We live in a world where the top-grossing movie at the box office last weekend made $1,710 — and it was an improvement from the prior weekend,” but his thread eventually landed on the fact that “the Ocala Drive-In in Ocala, Florida is the only theater in the country screening first-run movies right now.”




In comments to Vice, Ocala Drive-In owner John Watzke told the publication, “I've had hurricanes come, I've stayed open until the power went off and I had no one in the parking lot… Anybody that knows me and knows the drive-in knows I don't close.”
Watzke, 63, says his impetus to stay open has to do with providing wages for employees and giving people a way to escape reality. He told Vice that he was in Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina and that “anything that gave you a sense of feeling normal for just an hour or so meant a lot.”

His theater — which originally opened in 1948 before being closed in 2002 and then reopened — provides just that.

And don’t think he’s doing it for the money, either. Watzke, who comes from a long line of cinema men, said opening the joint was a bucket-list item and passion project.

"That's the thing about drive-in theaters. You don't make a lot of money. You can make a good living if you work it right, but you've got to have a passion for it,” he said.

Read the rest of this great profile via Vice.

This story originally appeared in our sister paper Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
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