Support Us Button Widget

Silver Moon Drive-In’s silver screen history

Founded in 1948, Silver Moon Drive-In has provided first-run films to Polk County residents for 75+ years — here’s a look at its storyboard.

A photo of the entrance of Silver Moon Drive-In in Lakeland, FL

Did you know Silver Moon is the last remaining drive-in in Polk County?

Photo by @allyagolden

While at one time there were more than 4,000 drive-in movie theatres across the US, there are only 177 still in operation as of 2023 — four of which are in Florida. Of those four, the Silver Moon Drive-In is the last one remaining not just in Lakeland, but all of Polk County.

Silver Moon Drive-In first opened its screens on April 14, 1948. Sporting individual RCA speakers, a snack bar, circulating vendors, and a whopping 35-cent admission charge, it was considered the most modern outdoor theatre in the state at the time.

An old newspaper clipping showing the Silver Moon Drive-In's original sign and plot.

This issue of The Exhibitor from Jan. 12, 1949 shows what Silver Moon looked like less than one year after it opened.

Just two years later in May 1950, tragedy struck beyond the silver screen. A tornado severely damaged the theatre’s cinder block screen, causing it to close for nearly two months.

Today, Silver Moon features two screens, both of which were equipped with laser projection in 2022. While admission may no longer be 35 cents, prices are still lower than the cost of traditional theatres — tickets cost just $8 for adults and $3 for children.

A graphic showing actor Bryan Cranston talking to a man on the left and a film set at a drive-in movie in Lakeland on the right

In addition to showing movies, Silver Moon Drive-In has also served as a filming location for various movies like “The One and Only Ivan” starring Bryan Cranston.

Ready for an adventure to this slice of cinema history? Here are our best pro tips.

  • Snag your parking spot early — before the first film starts, the theatre plays the national anthem over the speakers.
  • While there is a snack bar on-site, guests are allowed to bring in their own food. We’ve seen folks bring in everything from candy to a full-on dinner from Saigon Bistro.
  • Don’t leave before the second movie — your ticket covers the cost of both movies shown on the screen that evening.
  • Make things cozy by bringing your own lawn chairs to set up outside your car, or throw an air mattress in the back.
  • Don’t want a late night? The theatre also hosts a flea market each weekend that opens as early as 5 — yes, 5 — a.m.
More from LALtoday