It's Friday night at the Ruskin Family Drive-In Theater, and crowds are gathering to see tonight's feature, "Wonder Woman."
It's a great time to bring the family out. It's inexpensive.
Regulars here say on any normal Friday night, cars would be lined up out onto the highway. But this week, the line is almost nonexistent.
Owner John Freiwale blames a brand new shopping center that just opened next door, because the lights from the parking lot are making it more difficult for his customers to see.
"It seems like (business) gone down over 20 percent in the time that place had been open across the street," he said.
Last Saturday alone, Freiwale gave 63 refunds to customers who left mid-movie, all having trouble seeing the screen.
"You pay for something, right?" he said. "You want to see the movie."
Years ago, U.S. 41 would have looked rural -- the area across the highway was just woods. Fast forward to 2017, and all the development we've seen in Ruskin had led to new development -- and with that lots of light.
The good news: since initially raising concerns, the neighboring businesses have been trying to help. Publix is shutting off their lights when the store closes at 9, and Taco Bell is bringing in an engineer to see if there's anything they can do.
In the end, Freiwale says the drive-in will likely have to take its fate into its own hands. He hopes investing in a wall to shield light will pay off, keeping the tradition of drive-in movies alive in Florida, and his customers coming back for years to come.
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