OCALA, Fla. – There’s no natural disaster or worldwide pandemic that can convince John Watzke to close his drive-in theater in Ocala.
Even as movie theaters across the country shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Watzke and his small Ocala Drive-In theater continue to show new films and classics to moviegoers desperate for a night out.
“Anybody that knows me and knows the drive-in knows I don’t close,” Watzke, 63, told Vice. “I’ve had hurricanes come, I’ve stayed open until the power went off and I had no one in the parking lot."
Only 14 movie theaters were open in the U.S. last week, according to Deadline, and 13 were drive-in theaters. According to research done by writer Ernie Smith, the Ocala drive-in made up the entire revenue of the top-grossing film of last weekend, Swallow, which brought in $1,710.
We live in a world where the top-grossing movie at the box office last weekend made $1,710—and it was an improvement from the prior weekend. https://t.co/07c53ognWX pic.twitter.com/P36Xh1wAZ7— Ernie Smith (@ShortFormErnie) April 16, 2020
Watzke said he stays open because he wants to help his employees and those who just want to get out of the house. The drive-in is operating at 40% capacity and each car has 10 to 16 feet between one other, he said.
“I’ve actually had people tell me it’s as safe as being in a hospital,” Watzke said. “I’m taking every precaution possible.”
This weekend, the theater is showing ‘Trolls World Tour’, ‘E.T.’ and ‘Resistance.' Tickets are $6 for adults.
Watzke said he plans to stay open for as long as possible.
“The old cliché ‘the show must go on’ is not a cliché in my family: It’s a way of life,” he told Vice.