Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop
The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop is a 14-screen drive-in theater in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that doubles as the largest drive-in and largest daily flea market in the world. Local broadcast advertising states it to be Florida's second-biggest tourist attraction and the largest tourist attraction in the South Florida metropolitan area. From 1989-2006 the Hanneford Family Circus performed daily (except Tuesdays) in the Swap Shop food court, entertaining the roughly 12 million people who visit each year.
On November 22, 1963, Betty and Preston Henn opened the Thunderbird Drive-in Theater. In the beginning, there was one screen (still in use today as Screen 9) — and a reputation for showing adult movies, which concerned passing motorists. Initially the parking lot was divided by a fence to divide the white customers from the African American customers.
After a 1966 trip to the American West Coast, Henn decided to add a flea market, allowing the region to have a collective rummage sale and encouraging the start of many small businesses in southeastern Florida. The addition ushered in a period of expansion (to 11 screens by 1980) and increased popularity.
An enclosed food court was added in 1979; a decade later, a stage was added and the food court was enclosed and air conditioned. Initially, the circus shared the stage with 1960s and 1970s pop and country acts, most notably K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn and Three Dog Night.
Expansion continued into the 1990s, when Screens 12 and 13 were put into use, and into 2005, when the former Thunderbird Drive-in started projecting onto its fourteenth screen. On October 24, 2005 hurricane Wilma damaged several of the screens; currently only 13 of the 14 are in use.
In addition to the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop, the Henns own and operate two others, the Margate Swap Shop (which closed in 2007), the Lake Worth Swap Shop and Drive-in and Tampa Fun-Lan Swap Shop and Drive-in.
- Official Swap Shop Site
- Article on www.southflorida.com
- Entry on www.driveinmovie.com
- Update and recollections on www.drive-ins.com