World’s largest drive-in movie theater could land in Florida
EUSTIS – City commissioners at a special meeting on Thursday are expected to consider selling city-owned commercial property to a developer who wants to build a huge $1 million drive-in theater there.
According to Spencer Folmar of SpenceTF, LLC., the five-screen theater, dubbed the “Lighthouse 5,” would not only be the largest drive-in movie theater in the world – a claim he had verified by the Guinness Book of World Records – but an eventual destination complete with camp and RV grounds, restaurants and shops.
Folmar, also the CEO of Veritas Theatres, with locations in Pennsylvania and Texas, said although he considered other Central Florida cities for this new project, his heart is set on Eustis.
Folmar said he is a Eustis native and was born at the former Waterman Hospital. He said he believes the theater could potentially propel the local economy by attracting thousands of visitors to town each year.
“We want this to be fully encompassing, where people come and spend money in Eustis and that it improves the economic value in the north end, not only for my property but also all the properties all around,” Folmar said. “I believe that this will be a sincere boost to Eustis and I want to build this project here.”
Folmar first came to commissioners with his idea for the privately funded project about one month ago. Since then, the proposal has advanced quickly.
Last week, Folmar gave a presentation and agreed to purchase the 72-acre property off County Road 44 for the full assessed value of $460,000.
But commissioners, with one board member absent, pushed the vote to a special meeting set for Thursday. There, a majority vote means the proposal will continue forward. If it doesn’t pass, the proposal cannot come back before officials for 6 to 9 months.
In all, Folmar’s deal includes one-year of due diligence to conduct a study of the property, mainly wetlands.
Folmar said he and investors plan to spend up to $100,000 for the study. Then, if the findings conclude that the land is not suitable for building, Folmar would give the land back to the city, plus turn over study data.
If the study green lights the project, Folmar would complete the land purchase and proceed with his drive-in proposal, consisting of three phases.
Phase 1 includes the five-screen drive-in to be centered around a huge lighthouse in the middle as the focus, hence its name. Additionally, Folmar vowed to work with Trout Lake Nature Center, located in close proximity to the property, by expanding their tourism offerings with an additional nature reserve.
Phase 2 would include camp and RV grounds and the third phase would include restaurants, retail shops and a convenience store on the corner next to Cobb’s Tractor.
In a Monday post on the Eustis Drive-In Movie Theatre Facebook Page, Folmar appealed to supporters. He described himself as a filmmaker and storyteller who fell in love with cinema and visual arts going to old single screen movie theaters as a kid, adding that he now wants to share his passion with others.
“Early last year, I was struck with this vision that the best way to engage new audiences today and families is to provide them with experience along with their movie: a nostalgic and innovative drive-in movie theaters to serve the needs of a growing population and economy of tomorrow,” Folmar wrote.
Folmar also told commissioners that the project, in its entirety, would take about three years to complete and that it would create nearly 300 jobs.