Saturday, October 25, 2008


LAKELAND, Florida (AP) -- The view from Row 2 of the Silver Moon drive-in has changed hardly a whit in 60 years. Cars enter the road leading to the box office at the Silver Moon Drive-in Theatre in Lakeland, Florida.

Take a gander, and you'll see:

To your left, a yellow wooden post supporting a cast-aluminum box with a single volume knob and a tongue that hooks to an open car window -- a monaural speaker, from the days of President Truman.

To your right, in the rear of a Ford pickup lined with quilts, sleeping bags and goose-feather pillows, three jammie-clad youngsters devouring popcorn the way squirrels do acorns while Papa snoozes and Mama sips lemonade.

And dead ahead, the gods of Hollywood filling a gargantuan silvery screen beneath the grandest of all templates: the coal-black heavens, cluttered with thousands of points that flicker like diamond chips.

Not a place to miss if you happen to be in the neighborhood -- or even if not.

Ask Donovan Padgett, 44, who rolls his Ford F150 into the lot of the Silver Moon, on average, three times a week, making a 50-minute trek from his north Tampa, Florida, home.

He shrugs off the inconvenience. "There ain't many things left in this country you can call 100 percent, true-blue Americana," he says. "But this place, right here, is one of 'em. It's got a feeling to it. Homey."

The drive-in theater, that uniquely American institution which turned 75 this summer, is experiencing an unexpected renaissance. After decades of closures, about 100 drive-ins have opened or reopened since the mid-'90s.

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