The Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre opened on April 14, 1948 and was the first drive-in theatre to open in Lakeland, Florida. It was built, owned & operated by I. Q. Mize and M. G. Waring.
The opening attraction was “UP GOES MAIZIE” starring Ann Sothern and George Murphy. The admission of 35 cents per person included a short subject, a cartoon and the latest newsreel. The opening announcement in the Lakeland Ledger stated that the theatre featured 357 individual R.C.A. speakers, a new innovation at this time. A flyer dated April 26-27, 1948 advertised the theatre as “FLORIDA’S NEWEST MOST MODERN OUTDOOR THEATRE.”
The original snack bar was located near the theatre entrance. During the movie, vendors would circulate among the cars, selling candy, soft drinks, popcorn, sandwiches and cigarettes.
The front side of the screen facing the street featured a beautiful mural of a beach, giant palm trees, rippling water and a Silvery Moon among the clouds overhead.
On May 23, 1950, the cinder block screen was severely damaged by a tornado. Reports in the Lakeland Ledger said that the manager, I.Q. Mize, was in the office at the time, and large chunks of the screen landed on the roof of the office. Mr. Mise stated that the only reason that he survived was that the roof of the office was concrete.
The Silver Moon screen was rebuilt, and the theatre re-opened on July 1, 1950. Admission was raised to 40 cents. The featured attractions were “EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE” starring Barbara Stanwyck; a cartoon; and “BATTLE FOR KOREA,” billed as a 1000-foot short about the progress of the Korean War.
In November 1950, The Ledger printed an article stating that the Silver Moon was a very popular entertainment attraction in Lakeland. This article featured a photo of the rebuilt screen and stated that the program changed four times each week.
Mr. Mise and Mr. Waring continued to operate the Silver Moon until 1952, when it was sold to Carl Floyd, owner of Floyd Theatres, a chain of successful drive-in and indoor theatres operating in Florida.
Mr. Floyd immediately made several improvements to the Silver Moon, including building the modern concession stand that is still in operation, adding modern rest rooms and adding the beautiful flashing neon sign and marquee that still attracts the attention of those traveling along U.S. 92 West today.
In the late 1950s, Floyd Enterprises acquired the Lakeland Drive In, on South Florida Avenue, from Clyde Murrell (originally built by Clyde and his wife). In 1960, the concrete block screen was destroyed by Hurricane Donna. The theatre reopened a few months later with a new 80-foot-wide curved steel screen. In 1985, it was closed to make room for the Palm Center Shoppes (including Lakeland’s first Wal-Mart) and Floyd Theatres’ Palm Cinema III.
In the early 1960s, Floyd Theatres leased the Filmland Drive In Theatre on Lakeland Hills Blvd. in north Lakeland from Bill Clem and Joe Filletta. It remained in operation until 1986; the lease expired and the theatre closed. The All Children’s Hospital clinic is now located on this site.
Mr. Floyd built his company of theatres to more than 50 indoor theatres and drive-ins in Central Florida. In 1969. Mr. Floyd named one of his employees, Harold Spears, as president of Floyd Enterprises.
In the late 1970s, Floyd Enterprises was acquired by Burnup & Sims Inc., who retained Mr. Spears as president of Floyd Enterprises.
In 1985, a second screen was added to The Silver Moon.
During the early 1990s, Mastec, Inc. merged with Burnup & Sims. After a short period of time, Mastec sold all of the indoor theatres to Carmike and continued to operate the drive-ins.
Legacy of the Drive-In
Gradually, many of the drive-in theatres were closed and sold. In 1996, Mastec told Harold Spears to close the remaining drive-in theatres.
In an effort to save some of the drive-in theatres in central Florida, Mr. Spears formed Sun South Theatres and purchased the Silver Moon in Lakeland, FL; The Joy-Lan in Dade City, FL; and agreed to operate the 28th Street Drive-In Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL for the remaining years on the 50-year lease. The latter closed on June 30, 2000.
Today, the Silver Moon continues to operate successfully, showing first-run movies. Our refreshment center is nostalgically decorated with photos of drive-in theatres from days gone by.