Ocala’s local drive-in is the only theater in America showing first-run movies

Who wants some ‘Trolls World Tour’ action in their lives?

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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 that, “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 at 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 that, “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.

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About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his intro letter and 2021 disclosure. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The Daily Beast. Products...

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