We enjoy going to the movies but not during this pandemic. We’re just not there yet, so we decided to take a long drive to go to the Ocala Drive-In in Ocala, Florida. It seemed like a good idea, as we could socially distance from the car or from our chairs in front of the car. There are two screens there, and three of the screens played first-run movies (“Tenet”, “Spontaneous”, and “The Last Shift”). We opted for the Halloween classic “Hocus Pocus” with Bette Middler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
The movie start times varies according to the time it gets dark, so be sure to check the movie start time seasonally. When we visited on October 3, the movie started at 7:45 PM, and the gate opened at 7:00 PM. I highly recommend getting there early, as close to opening as possible to get a good parking spot, as the drive-in appeared to be nearly sold out by the time the show started. The price is six dollars per adult and three dollars for children from six to twelve. Children under five are free.
The man at the gate entrance was very pleasant and gave us brownie “Z-Bars” with our receipt, which was a welcome surprise. I am a big fan of the “small good thing” one receives unexpectedly. When I voiced my surprise and thanked the gate keeper, he gave me a warm and genuine smile in return.
We have been to a few drive- in theaters in Florida in the last ten years or so, and a few are in less than desirable neighborhoods and looked a little worse for the wear. Ocala Drive-In, however, is in a pleasant and safe neighborhood and has been kept up well. The rest rooms have been updated a bit, very clean, and the owners take pride enough in their drive-in to place a decorative item on the vanity in the women’s rest room. I was happy to see the door to the restrooms propped open to allow adequate exchange of air during this pandemic, too.
The concession stand delivers food to your car if you want, but there are newer patio chairs and tables for those that wish to eat at the concession stand.
During the height of the pandemic, cars were parked in every other spot to allow for maximum social distancing, and at the time of our visit, only a few blocked spots remained for social distance. However, cars appeared to be parked four or five feet away, and the distance from driver of one car to passenger of the adjacent car appeared to be well over six feet.
I appreciated the proprietor’s request to stand when the National Anthem was played on the screen and had forgotten this happened before every movie I saw as a child in the drive-in. I also was pleasantly surprised to see a black and white Popeye clip play just before the movie, along with a kitschy concession advertisement like those I remember advertising the “hot buttered popcorn” at the concession stand from my childhood.
The quality of the movie, even though it was old, was great. The sound coming through the FM radio of our car was equally great. Patrons were all well-behaved, and we viewed no sketchy characters there.
All in all, it was a great outing to the Ocala Drive-In, and we will definitely go again. I highly recommend this particular Drive-In, too, as the attention to detail the owners provide for this old but in good condition theater shows.
Life is good; find a way to do something different today. Carpe diem, friends…………..