TSH: Movieland Drive In closes

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Today in Sanford History (TSH), local movie buffs gathered by the biggest screen in town for the last time at the Movieland Drive In. It was April 30, 1996.

The feature that night was “Executive Decision” starring Kurt Russell, Halle Berry and Steven Segal. When the film ended, so to do a uniquely American form entertainment for most of Central Florida.

Movieland’s owner, Floyd Theatres Inc. of Lakeland, closed Orlando’s Ri Mar Drive In on the same day as Movieland and Winter Garden’s Star-Lite Drive In a few days later. Declining ticket sales were the reason. Movieland was torn down in 2002. Today Lowe’s is located on the on the site where the drive-in used to sit.

The drive-in theater concept was patented by Richard Milton Hollingshead, Jr. of Camden, N.J. on May 16, 1933. On June 6, he opened his 400-acre “Automobile Movie Theatre” to the public.

The 1950s were the golden ate of the drive-in. At the start of the decade there was less than 200 drive-ins in the U.S. By the time the 1960 arrived, there were more than 4,000.

By the time Movieland closed in 1996, there were less than 848 drive-ins according to an Orlando Sentinel article at there time. Color television, cable networks, VCRs and soaring land values were the leading causes of declining ticket sales.

According to AAA, there were 305 drive-ins as of November 2019.

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