During the 1920s, “outdoor movies” emerged as a popular form of summer entertainment across the county. During the Great Depression, the drive-in theater concept was patented in Camden, New Jersey by Richard M. Hollingshead on May 16, 1933.

On December 6, 1939, the Jacksonville Drive-In opened on Atlantic Boulevard. It was believed to be Florida’s first drive-in theater. Growth in the industry remained stagnant through the 1930s. Prior to World War II, only 15 drive-in movie theaters operated in the country.

Following the war, the drive-in theater industry boomed as a response to rising car ownership and suburban growth. Between 1947 and 1951, the number of drive-ins in the United States increased from 155 to 4,151. The number of drive-in theaters across the country and in Jacksonville peaked during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Locally, the majority of theaters were located in largely rural areas on the edge of the city.

Improvements in home entertainment options, such as color television, cable television, VCRs and video rental led to the decline of the drive-in movie industry. The majority of Jacksonville’s drive-in theaters closed for good during the 1970s and 1980s. Overall, less than 200 drive-ins were still in operation in the United States and Canada by the late 1980s. Jacksonville’s last full-time drive-in theater, the Playtime 3 Drive-In on Blanding Boulevard, closed in 2008. Reviewing Cinematreasures.com, a website guide to over 59,000 movie theaters from around the world, here are 16 drive-in theaters that entertained Jaxsons during the industry’s mid-20th century heyday.

1. Airbase Drive-In

8370 Roosevelt Boulevard

The Airbase Drive-in officially opened its doors on September 5, 1948. Built with the capacity of 300 automobiles, the theater was located on U.S. Highway 17, one mile south of the Naval Air Station. At the time, designed with a modern colonial motif, it was said to be one of the most beautiful theaters in the South. Today, this is the location of 84 Lumber at the intersection of Roosevelt Boulevard and Collins Road.

2. Atlantic Drive-In

5800 Atlantic Boulevard

The Jacksonville Drive-In on December 6, 1939. The theater was located at the southwest corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Bartram Road near Empire Point. It was believed to be Florida’s first drive-in theater. Around 1945, the name was changed to the Atlantic Drive-In. The theater closed its doors in 1975. With a Publix supermarket as its main anchor, the Arlington River shopping center occupies the former drive-in theater site today.

3. Blanding Drive-In

4947 Blanding Boulevard

The Blanding Drive-In opened during the 1960s as a one screen property that accommodated up to 825 parked vehicles. It was constructed to cater to the neighborhoods of Cedar Hills and Confederate Point. Over the years, it was owned and operated by Kent Theatres, Inc. and Martin Theatres. After closing, the property situated between Blanding and Wesconnett Boulevards, was used as the headquarters for Vystar Credit Union for several years.

4. Fox Drive-In

7777 Normandy Boulevard

Owned by Eastern Federal Corporation, the Fox Drive-In was the city’s westernmost drive-in theater property. Initially a one screen theater, a second screen was eventually added to the property around 1976. The Fox was the last property in Jacksonville owned by Eastern Federal when it closed in 1986. While the theater that accommodated up to 800 cars is no more, the property’s shape has been preserved with the redevelopment of the site into an apartment complex.

5. Lake Forest Drive-In

7612 Oriole Street

The Lake Forest Drive-In was developed in a site that most would find odd. Not located on a major thoroughfare, the Lake Forest Drive-In opened during the mid-1950s at the intersection of Rowe Avenue and Oriole Street in Northwest Jacksonville. Operated by Kent Theatres, the one screen theater accommodated up to 300 vehicles. The drive-in closed for good in 1980. Today, the site is the location of the Peace Missionary Baptist Church.

6. Loew’s Normandy Twin Open-Air Theatre

5011 Normandy Boulevard

Designed by architect F. Earl Delow, the Normandy Drive-In opened in April 1949. Accommodating 1,010 vehicles, the two-screen drive-in was the largest of its kind in Jacksonville. The facility also featured a miniature Seaboard Silver Meteor, free donkey rides, a five-acre playground and outdoor seating for 400 walk-in customers. In June 1955, it was acquired by Loew’s, Inc. Less than a decade later, the theater closed and the property was redeveloped in Normandy Mall in 1963.

7. Main Street Drive-In

5601 Main Street

The Main Street Drive-In was developed by the Talgar Theatre Company chain. It opened to the public on September 1, 1950. Located at Main and 45th Streets, the one screen theater accommodated 700 vehicles. It also featured a cafeteria style concession stand, playground seating and stadium style seating for patrons not wishing to sit in an automobile. Kent Theatres Inc. operated the theater during the late 1960s. After its closure, the property was redeveloped into a shopping center in 1989.

8. Midway Drive-In 1 & 2

8808 Beach Boulevard

The Midway Drive-In 1 & 2 opened during the late 1960s. Owned by Eastern Federal Corporation, the Midway was built on location on Beach Boulevard just west of Southside Boulevard. The two screen drive-in was designed to accommodate 800 vehicles. The Midway Drive-In 1 & 2 played first run films through the early 80’s. The Midway Drive-In closed in mid 1984. Today, a Walmart is located on the property.