April 14, 1948
The Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre opened April 14, 1948 - the first drive-in theatre to open in Lakeland. It was 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 Lakeland Ledger stated that the theatre featured 357 individual R.C.A. speakers - a new innovation. An April 26-27, 1948 flyer advertised the theatre as “FLORIDA’S NEWEST MOST MODERN OUTDOOR THEATRE.”
The snack bar was located near the theatre entrance. During the movie, vendors would circulate selling candy, soft drinks, popcorn, sandwiches and cigarettes.
The front side of the screen facing the street featured a beautiful mural of a beach, palm trees, rippling water and a Silvery Moon among the clouds.
On May 23, 1950, the cinder block screen was severely damaged by a tornado. The Lakeland Ledger reported 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 the only reason he survived was due to the concrete roof of the office.
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,” 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 operated the Silver Moon until 1952, when it was sold to Carl Floyd, owner of Floyd Theatres, a chain of successful Florida drive-in and indoor theatres.
Mr. Floyd made several improvements to the Silver Moon, adding a modern concession stand and restrooms and the flashing neon sign and marquee that stands 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 closed to make room for Palm Center Shoppes (which included Lakeland’s first Wal-Mart) and Floyd Theatres’ Palm Cinema III.
In the early 1960s, Floyd Theatres leased the Filmland Drive In Theatre, Lakeland Hills Blvd., in north Lakeland, from Bill Clem and Joe Filletta. It remained in operation until 1986. All Children’s Hospital clinic is now located on this site.
Mr. Floyd expanded his company to more than 50 indoor theatres and drive-ins in Central Florida. In 1969, Mr. Floyd named Harold Spears as president of Floyd Enterprises.
In the late 1970s, the company 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 brief period, Mastec sold all indoor theatres to Carmike but continued to operate the drive-ins.
Gradually, many of the drive-in theatres were closed and sold. In 1996, Mastec closed 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 and the Joy-Lan Drive In in Dade City and agreed to operate the 28th Street Drive-In Theatre in St. Petersburg 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. The refreshment center is nostalgically decorated with photos of drive-in theatres from days gone by.