Most Babyboomers recall how tricky it was to get the sound right from the speaker hanging inside the car window in order to hear the movie at the drive-in theater. At their peak in the 1960s, there were approximately 4,000 drive-ins, ultimately dwindling to less than 400 over the decades. And yet, in the expression of, “What’s Old Is New Again”, “pop-up” drive-in theaters are being seen as an adaptation in response to COVID-19 movie theater closures. Thanks to Donald Groh, Jr., and his sister, Barbara, Florida City is among the communities to offer this option.
Donald Groh, Sr., and the family own multiple businesses and properties in the area, to include 921 N. Krome Ave, where an annual carnival sets up and other events are occasionally held. For now, it’s home to The Florida City Cinema, where every Thursday through Sunday, the large blow-up screen is set up for movies such as, “Avengers: Infinity War”.
“It was my sister’s idea, but we were both busy with finishing our semester,” explained Donald Groh, Jr. “She noticed the trend in other cities and I’ve always been involved in entrepreneurial efforts.
I wanted to have my own start-up and we thought we would give this a try and see if it worked.” The plan fit well with his academic pursuit of computer science, economics, and entrepreneurship.
Their initial meeting with the Florida City Planner was positive and they were able to push through the paperwork to make the City Council meeting without delay. “With all the bad news and depressing things going on, this was something fun and safe we could approve,” Mayor Otis Wallace said. “I always loved the drive-in as a kid, and we expedited it to give folks this opportunity.”
In researching costs, the Groh brother and sister team decided to purchase the required equipment instead of renting and shopped around for bargains. “We were able to be up and running within three weeks of City approval,” he said.
Although Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate to allow the movie to be shown, attendee comments from Facebook are generally, “Amazing!”. Unlike the old type of speakers, sound is broadcast on a dedicated FM radio frequency. Parking places are laid out to accommodate enough space to set up folding chairs if preferred and still maintain social distancing. Snack and food options have not been forgotten either.
“We want this to be especially good for families,” Groh said. “We keep the prices for snacks and beverages low.” For something more substantial, Gator Grill has a food tent where they offer selected favorites from their regular menu and a food truck like InstaTaco is usually on hand.
Patrons can text in an order and go to the vendor when it is ready or stand in line maintaining required social distancing.
The full price for admission is $25 per car, however, they run different discount promotions and sometimes free films. Movies begin at 8:00 p.m. each night. For more information, go to https://www.flcitycinema.com
Brother and sister expect to return to their respective universities later next month; he to Duke in North Carolina, and she to doctoral studies in engineering at University of Texas in Austin. In the meantime, they’re providing a welcome source of entertainment for those looking for a nice night out.