20th Century Drive-In

2900 N. Dale Mabry Highway,
Tampa, FL 33607

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Showing 1 - 25 of 89 comments

Rebelgator
Rebelgator on February 20, 2013 at 9:41 am

It was not replaced by Kmart it was replaced by Apartment complex which is next to Kmart. back of drive In was on Himes. It was a wild time When Cheech n Chongs up in Smoke premiered there. Most people and Smoke I have ever seen in a Drive In….LOL

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

neat story, I stood outside in the parking lot and watched movies while my mom shopped at Forest Hills Drive-in, guess a bunch of kids did this.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on November 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm

I hadn’t noticed it in the aerial before but you’re right. I see the Biff Burger and the playground behind it. On several occasions when I couldn’t convince my parents to go to the drive-in, I had my father drop me off at Biff Burger. From the playground you had a nice view of the screen. Sitting on the swings I watched as the cars lined up at the box-office wishing I was in one of them as they entered the theatre. Although you could barely hear the movie from the playground it was the next best thing to actually being inside the drive-in!

tampapix
tampapix on November 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm

If you zoom in on the 1969 historic aerial at the link the NYozoner posted, you can see just below and right of the Dale Mabry entrance marqee, the Biff Burger restaurant so popular with the drive-in patrons. You can even see the striped rooftop. Immediately behind it (to the right), is the triangular shaped playground.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on October 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I forgot about the curve but you’re right. The Mustang did have a curved screen. I think if you were to cut about a 4th off the top of the Mustang’s screen it would then be true scope projection.

These drive-ins in Tampa also had a curved steel screen installed that replaced their original screens: Dale Mabry, Skyway, and Hillsboro. The Dale Mabry and Hillsboro were 100-foot wide and the Skyway was 60-foot wide. These screens were also tilted slightly downward at an angle aimed towards the booth for a more direct projection throw and better viewing from ground level.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on October 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

The screen at the Mustang had a curve to it. I lived in Tampa when it was open and than when it was a flea market. The 20th Century had a true wide scope screen even though when I first went to Tampa in 77 it was panavision projection.

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on October 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I would say very close to scope although not true CinemaScope. As I understand it original CinemaScope had a ratio of 2 to 1 but the process was later refined to a less wider image, and Panavision eventually replaced CinemaScope. Although the Mustang’s screen was larger it still doesn’t look quite as wide as the 20th Century’s. So I’d say the 20th Century had true scope capability with the Mustang coming close.

Check out the Mustang page on CT under Pinellas Park. Just yesterday someone posted a short YouTube video showing the lot when it was a flea market. The 120-foot wide screen is still standing. It looks massive but not quite as wide as the 20th Century’s screen.

NYozoner
NYozoner on October 28, 2011 at 11:22 am

Any outdoor screen over 100 feet wide would almost have to be scope.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on October 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

Do you know if the Mustang was capable of showing films in true scope?

Nick DiMaggio
Nick DiMaggio on October 27, 2011 at 12:17 pm

According to an ad in Box-Office magazine from 1964, the screen at the 20th Century Drive-In was in excess of 110 feet wide. Certainly one of the largest at the time until the Mustang D/I opened in St. Petersburg with its 120-foot wide steel screen that they proudly advertised.

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on October 27, 2011 at 10:51 am

This was the only theater in Tampa that had a screen big enough to show films in true scope. Actually I remember reading that it was one of the largest drive in sceens in the United States.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on September 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Nick, when you get on Facebook i am putting alot of my theatres pics on,get on,along with cinematreasures great place to meet theatre folks.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on April 12, 2011 at 8:09 pm

It certainly does bring back plenty of great memories. And in contrast to the image above here’s what the property looks like today…54 years later:
View link
Image should enlarge to super-size by clicking on image and then clicking “view all sizes” on upper right.

Richard Wheeler
Richard Wheeler on April 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Man, does that bring back good memories!
Thanks, Nick –

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on April 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Aerial dated 1957. One of Tampa’s largest drive-ins:
View link

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on February 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Thanks for the link NYozoner!! Thought I’d never again see the 20th Century…very nice.

Dick: You’re right. The east-west roadway entrance from Dale Mabry still exists today as the entrance to the apartment complex although it’s now dressed with medians & trees. There was also a second entrance to the drive-in from Columbus Drive which is visible in the image.

Richard Wheeler
Richard Wheeler on January 29, 2011 at 6:15 am

The aerial provided by NYozoner shows 4 different views of the drive-in site over a 38-year period.

One thing these views show is that the current east-west drive leading from Dale Mabry to today’s apartment complex is the same drive that led to the drive-in theatre entrance back then. The only thing different is that today’s drive includes median islands with trees, which I don’t think the old drive had.

Thanks for posting the map link, NYozoner!

NYozoner
NYozoner on January 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

2901 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33607

The above address will map more accurately to the location of the drive-in, which is currently occupied by Arbour Ponds Apartment Homes. The current heading address maps to the adjacent property occupied by K-Mart.

Here is a 1969 aerial photo of the drive-in, courtesy of HistoricAerials.com.

Richard Wheeler
Richard Wheeler on September 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Perhaps my recollection of the theatre on 22nd Street as being the Causeway Drive-In Theatre is incorrect. That was a long time ago, and I lived in another part of town.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on September 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Dick, See the Causeway Drive-In page. I posted a comment. I think it was renamed the Auto Park Drive-In.

Richard Wheeler
Richard Wheeler on September 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Thanks, Nick. Very interesting discussion.

P.S. I entered the name of another theatre that was not on the list – the Causeway Drive-In Theatre.

Nunzienick
Nunzienick on September 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Thanks Dick! It’s great to know someone else from this area also remembers the 20th Century. The lack of comments from the locals amazes me. You would think with the thousands who frequented these theaters there would be at least a few more comments.

Punk trees…so that’s what they’re called! I see them just about every day when driving down Beach street. I think there are also several along the property bordering Himes Ave. They sure do bring back memories of the 20th Century whenever I see them.

Thanks for remembering Biff Burger. I wasn’t certain what it was but now I can envision the Biff Burger sign on Dale Mabry. I also recall a playground directly behind the burger stand. You had a nice view of the screen from there!

Richard Wheeler
Richard Wheeler on September 24, 2010 at 5:39 am

Thanks for the discussion of the 20th Century Drive-In Theatre!

One remnant of the 20th Century Drive-In Theatre still remains: During its development, the owners planted a long row of punk trees around the theatre property to obscure the screen from the neighborhood. (Punk trees were tall and narrow, with peeling bark, and looked a little like birch trees.) That row of punk trees along Beach Street still exists on the apartment village campus. These trees go back to the founding of the drive-in.

The hamburger stand on Dale Mabry near the entrance road to the theatre was a Biff Burger. There was also another Biff Burger next to Plant High School.

Thanks again for a great discussion!