Orlando summer 2020: The safest way to see a movie with friends is inside your own car

At the drive-in

Orlando summer 2020: The safest way to see a movie with friends is inside your own car
Enzian-Bungalower pop-up drive-in (Photo by Janie Pope)

If you're feeling hesitant or anxious about stepping back into a darkened cinema but you feel even more anxious about staring at movies on a tiny mobile device's screen, we might just have a good compromise for you. There's a physically distanced way of seeing movies that's making a comeback during the pandemic.

Everything that's old is new again, and now it's the turn of the drive-in movie to stride confidently back into the pop culture spotlight. In the latter part of the 1940s and '50s, drive-ins were the de rigueur weekend outing for families or dates, though they gradually disappeared over the decades. Now the admirably stubborn holdouts are having a "who's laughing now" moment, and pop-up drive-in screenings are multiplying. Here are a few in the Central Florida area.

Enzian Theater Pop-Up Drive-In
Maitland's art-house stalwart Enzian Theater teamed up with bustling local website Bungalower for a pop-up series of drive-in screenings around town. With a DIY sense of adventure – audiovisual frills are few, screenings are usually announced just a week ahead of time, it's bring your own everything, and the tickets are on a suggested donation basis – and a heavy helping of 1980s fare – The Princess Bride, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. so far – the screenings still tend to sell out very quickly.

Mount Dora's Epic Theatre
Last month, Epic Theatres at Mount Dora launched a drive-in movie series in their parking lot, focusing heavily on silver-screen classics. The Mount Dora location joins other Epic theaters in nearby Clermont and West Volusia in offering drive-in movies, though each sets their own programming. (A recent double feature of the Dark Knight and Birds of Prey was a clever way of reuniting the Joker and Harley Quinn.) Movies are projected on the side of the cineplex, and concession counters inside the theaters are open for business. On June 27 they'll join 300 other outdoor venues across the country to simulcast a concert by country star Garth Brooks.

Ocala Drive-In
"Don't call it a comeback/I've been here for years." Clearly LL Cool J wasn't talking about the Ocala Drive-In, but the sentiment still fits. This drive-in opened in 1918 and first shut down in 2002, but then against all odds (and market trends) reopened a few years later. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, this defiant drive-in was basically the only theater in the whole country showing first-run movies for a while. Owner John Watzke explained to Vice his business model in a suitably low-key fashion: "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."

Silver Moon Drive-In
Once upon three months ago, driving to Lakeland might have been a bit of a trek to see a movie, but what is time now anyway? The Silver Moon Drive-In has been around since 1948, when admission was 35 cents. Over 70 years later, they're still bringing the crowds with creative programming taking in first-run films and classics, including recent screenings of Space Jam and Beetlejuice. They shut their doors in April briefly because of the coronavirus, but are back open, doing what they've been doing in much the same way for decades.

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