Miami Herald, The (FL) - July 10, 1987
Author: GEOFFREY TOMB Herald Staff Writer

A lot of firsts happened in drive-in movies: First kisses. Baby's first night out. First swallows of beer. First scary movie.

Now you count lasts. Dade's next-to-last drive-in , the Tropicaire at Bird Road and the Palmetto Expressway, will be closing down. It was called the South's most modern drive-in when it opened in February 1949.

Gone will be the Americana of the Tropicaire's peeling green facade, pink and green neon and 10 palm trees poking out of planters behind the 40-foot screen. The palm fronds blow in the breeze as if summer nights are forever.

The Tropicaire will go the way of the Dixie (1979 for a Publix) and the GoldenGlades (1981 for a warehouse). Dade, which had 19 drive-ins 25 years ago, will be left with just the
Turnpike Twin, at 12850 NW 27th Ave.

Thursday, the Metro Commission approved zoning changes that would allow developers to build a 287,000-square-foot shopping center on the 28-acre Tropicaire site, now used Thursday through Sunday nights for last-run, pre-video movies and on weekend days for a flea market. Its future is also dim.

"The flea market on Saturdays and Sundays was the only thing that really kept us going," said Keith McComas, Tropicaire's owner. He is 69.

"It used to be we would have 1,500 to 2,000 on a good night. Now we are lucky if we get 200 people in there on a Friday or Saturday."

There were 27 paid parked in the lot Thursday at 8:38 p.m. when Three Amigos flickered on. Platoon was the second feature.

Some views on drive-ins from Tropicaire customers:

"It is just being out of doors in the evening when the sun goes down," said Arthur Brill. He drove from Homestead with his wife, Judy, and seven kids sitting in the bed of a blue Ford pick up.

"We can take all the neighbor's kids," said Judy Brill.

Kids under age 12 are free. Adults are $2.50. For $5 the Brills treated nine to a double feature show. No one at a drive- in calls them films.

"Drive-ins are as American as apple pie," said Jim Spittler of North Bay Village. "This one has the best corn dogs in Florida."

"You can dress casual, relax, kick off your shoes and prop up your feet," said Bill Freeland of South Carolina.

"It's a shame," said Terri Jaramillo of Homestead. "Now we will have to stay home and watch TV."

Her bumper sticker read "Too Many Boys. Not Enough Men."

"We will miss the place. There is enough shopping centers," said Donna Stomick of Kendall.

Bill Ogden, president of Brancroft Development, said the group hopes to build a "Key West-style" shopping plaza of about 50 stores and more than 1,100 parking spaces on the spot. It will be called Tropicaire Center. This will happen in six months, said theater owner McComas.

Dade Mayor Steve Clark had his own views on the new shopping center: "It will be an upgrading of the property."

Herald staff writer Ellen Livingston contributed to this report.

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