Friday, July 20, 2012

Florida History: First Fort Lauderdale drive-in theater spurs party

By Jane Feehan

Reported by the Fort Lauderdale News as a "new entertainment feature," the city's first drive-in theater opened in January, 1948. It was owned and operated by Floridale Company and located “two miles west of town” on West Broward Boulevard. Mayor Reed Bryan was on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The opening was a big event for the town; Mayors Turbeville of Oakland Park, Haymaker and Schwartz of Hollywood, Bland of Pompano, and Frost of Dania also participated in the celebration. The Fort Lauderdale High School band played and the entire inaugural program was recorded for playback on radio station WFTL.  The feature movie was Centennial Summer. Refreshments were served at cars upon signal.

The drive-in movie business began with the opening of the first theater June 6, 1933 in Camden, NJ. Tickets were 25 cents per vehicle and 25 cents per person. By 1948, 820 drive-ins were open throughout the country. According to the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association, the peak year for drive-ins was 1958 when 4063 were showing movies. By that time, they were nicknamed “passion pits” for known back seat activities.

As of June, 2012, UDITOA reports 366  open air theaters remain. Seven, and by some other accounts 11, drive-ins operate today in Florida.  In Fort Lauderdale, the Thunderbird or Swap Shop Drive-In Theater still packs them in on West Sunrise Boulevard.

Fort Lauderdale News, Jan. 14, 1948
Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 2012
United Drive-In Theater Owners Association at

DVD  - Drive-in theater memories

Tags: Fort Lauderdale in the 1940s, Fort Lauderdale history, Drive-in theater Fort Lauderdale, drive-in theater history, film industry researcher

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