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Drive-in movie theater proposed for Orange City

IT WILL BE HERE — A pickup speeds by a sign marking the heavily wooded future site of a drive-in movie theater, if an Edgewater man’s dream becomes a reality in a year or so. As of Aug. 27, the sign was on the west side of Kentucky Avenue in Orange City, between Graves Avenue and State Road 472.

IT WILL BE HERE — A pickup speeds by a sign marking the heavily wooded future site of a drive-in movie theater, if an Edgewater man’s dream becomes a reality in a year or so. As of Aug. 27, the sign was on the west side of Kentucky Avenue in Orange City, between Graves Avenue and State Road 472.

BEACON PHOTO/JOE CREWS

An Edgewater man is considering building a drive-in movie theater in the northeast corner of Orange City.

Dan Engel wants to build the Stetson Drive-In on about 10 acres of some land he owns on the east side of Kentucky Avenue between Graves Avenue and State Road 472, said Sims Kline, who is acting as marketing consultant for the project that still might be at least a year from reality.

“Our location, adjacent to I-4 and S.R. 472, is ideal to serve folks in a wide area, including Volusia and nearby counties,” Engel said in a statement forwarded by Kline. “We will feature the latest first-run movies and be family-friendly with a playground, dog park, and many other amenities. We’ll also be high-tech, with digital high-definition visual projection and audio distribution systems.”

Kline, a childhood friend of Engel, added that “Dan thinks this is the right time and right place to develop a high-tech drive-in theater.”

The drive-in is envisioned to handle 300 to 500 vehicles per show.

The “Stetson” part of the project’s name is because Engel hopes to collaborate with Stetson University’s extensive digital-arts program. The drive-in could showcase digital-arts projects produced by Stetson students, said Kline, who recently retired as the university’s research librarian.

Another Stetson connection is that Engel’s late mother, Iris Daniel Engel, was an alumna who taught piano lessons in Orlando for many years. One of her teenage students was Kline, which is how he became friends with her son.

Kline said it’s a myth that drive-in theaters are done. Although there once were about 4,000 drive-ins across the country, only about 350 to 400 are in business today. The ones that remain have reinvented themselves by utilizing better technology than the drive-ins of yesteryear, he said.

For one thing, today’s drive-ins all use digital projection, allowing operators to show first-run movies, “which is key to being successful,” Kline said.

For another, the sound is sent via FM signals that can be picked up by the audio systems in the vehicles audience members arrive in.

“Some people still want the [window-mounted] squawk boxes, so there might be 30 to 40 of those [speakers] available,” Kline said.

Engel also intends to use solar power to run everything, tapping batteries that are charged by the sun during the day.

“Dan can afford to take the time to do it right, and do it well,” Kline said. “Dan got very interested because he enjoyed drive-in movies in his youth. They offer a great family entertainment value that cannot be replicated in a traditional theater.”

Becky Mendez, Orange City’s planning-services director, said she has not done any research into whether a drive-in theater would be appropriate in the proposed location. But in general, she said, projects of that sort would require a Planned Unit Development agreement approved once by the city’s Planning Commission and twice by the City Council.

- Joe Crews, joe@beacononlinenews.com

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