Sundown Drive-In

5400 West Hillsborough Avenue,
Tampa, FL 33614

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Sundown Drive-In

The Sundown Drive-In probably had the shortest lifespan of any drive-in in the country. Opening on March 13, 1953 and closing in August of 1954, the drive-in was in existence for a mere one year and five months. Capacity is listed as 275 cars and the owner was Bob Morales.

The lot was located off Hillsborough Avenue at Hoover Boulevard on the right side of the road about one mile west of Dale Mabry. The narrow dirt road that became today’s Hoover Boulevard led from Hillsborough Avenue to the Sundown’s box office. This location was considered to be "way out in the boondocks" at the time as much of the area was still undeveloped. Today’s Town N' Country suburb located further west on Hillsborough Avenue did not even exist.

The rear of the screen faced Hillsborough Avenue and the lot was not far from the airport’s north and south runways on the opposite side of Hillsborough Avenue. This in fact may have been one of the reasons for the early demise of the Sundown. This plus being located far off the beaten path may have sealed it’s doom.

As late as the mid-1970s the screen and the concessions building were still standing. While driving down Hillsborough Avenue I remember seeing the rear of the rusted and tattered screen several times which was now surrounded and partly obscured by trees and overgrown bushes. On one occasion I turned down the narrow dirt road and drove towards the rear of the screen.

I could see the concessions building now nearly obliterated by weeds and tall bushes. Walking past the screen and into the lot I stopped cold. As intriguing as it was and even in broad daylight I just didn’t have the nerve to go any further fearing snakes and other creatures may be lurking within. The entire lot was almost hidden by the overgrowth and looked small in comparison to other drive-ins.

The Sundown Drive-In also played a few Spanish language films based on several ads I saw before switching back to Engish language features. The final published ad appeared on Friday, August 13, 1954. That evening’s program was advertised for Friday and Saturday although there was no published ad in Saturday’s theatre listings. A friend tells me she remembers going to the Sundown Drive-In to see "The Barefoot Mailman" with Bob Cummings. She also remembers seeing either "It Came From Outer Space" or "The Creature From The Black Lagoon" here. The Sundown Drive-In had closed long before I discovered movies and theatres so I never had a chance to see a movie here.

Several office buildings and a parking lot occupy the site today.

Contributed by Nick DiMaggio

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

AndyCallahanMajorMajor on January 29, 2011 at 10:02 am

Here is a 1969 view, courtesy of Historic Aerials.

Nunzienick on February 2, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for the link Andy! I hadn’t heard of Historic Aerials before. It took me a couple minutes to figure out how to navigate before realizing you need to input address & city. Clicking in the dots at the bottom right of image then brings it into focus. My search for a photo of the Sundown proved fruitless so this is great.

AndyCallahanMajorMajor on February 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm

It’s great now that they added 1969 imagery.

I apologize about my link above. It shows the area just north of the Sky-Vue in South Pasadena. This should show the Sundown.

pcfousj on March 31, 2011 at 6:34 am

Nick I have a aerial of the sundown if you want it


Nunzienick on March 31, 2011 at 10:23 am

pcfous: Yes, I’d love to see it….thanks! Send to

Nunzienick on April 11, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Aerial from 1957. The Sundown had already been closed for 3 years:
View link

Nunzienick on April 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Here’s a current aerial of the property as it looks today:
View link

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Golly, looks like one could be built right back SUNDOWN II ?

rivest266 on October 1, 2017 at 6:51 am

The Sundown Drive did not place any ads in the newspapers until June of 1953.

MichaelKilgore on June 17, 2023 at 8:47 pm

The Exhibitor, April 8, 1953: “The Sundown Drive-In, Tampa, Fla., opened, owned by J. B. Shipley, W. T. Robinson, Jr., and B. N. Pooley, Jr.”

Also, as others have noted, many drive-ins throughout history lasted only one abbreviated season. Three that I’ve researched and written about are the Sands (July 31-Oct. 15, 1953) in Needles CA, the Independent (July 31-Oct. 2, 1949) in Cortez CO, and the Fair Park (July 17-Aug. 18, 1948) in Oklahoma City. That last one would be my nominee for shortest life of any drive-in with graded ramps - as opposed to temporary pop-up drive-ins.

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