The Old Mill Playhouse is the last movie theater standing in The Villages. At one time, there were three movie theaters located in every town square. Before Covid, the Rialto Theater was already undergoing renovations, but Covid put a stop to those plans. The Barnstorm Theater in Brownwood also was impacted and shut down during Covid, and has not reopened.
The only theater to remain in operation was The Old Mill Playhouse, located at Lake Sumter Landing Square in The Villages. This theater is now in the process of changing hands from The Villages Entertainment and will be moving to a company which we have heard has over 80 years in the movie industry business.
The Old Mill Playhouse, along with the other theaters, was once run separately as its own division. A few years ago, that all changed when The Villages Entertainment assumed full control of the movie theaters. Changes included a new website to purchase tickets and the public was excited about what The Villages Entertainment could provide. They certainly delivered on those promises.
(The popular entertainment shows inside the Old Mill Playhouse will come to an end on September 30th. The community will miss these shows.)
And for the first year or so, things went great. Old Mill Playhouse opened a brand new restaurant inside called Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack and the theater even held solo performances, comedy clubs and other events inside the grand entrance plaza inside the main building. The Villages Entertainment also was going to renovate the oldest movie theater, The Rialto in Spanish Springs. Things were looking up! Then March of 2020 happened…
To say things did not go well for the movie industry during these times is an understatement. All movie theaters closed down. The Rialto Theater remained closed after Covid. Rumors swirled for years about apartments being put in its place, but we now know that the old Rialto Theater is now becoming a gym and fitness center. The old Brownwood Theater, which was considered state-of-the-art at the time it opened, was shut down during Covid and used as a Covid testing site. The theater has not opened back up and looms largely over Brownwood town square to this day. We hold onto hope that it may be opened again one day in the future.
Meanwhile, The Villages Entertainment reopened the Old Mill Playhouse after Covid was over. Many amazing events took place at the theater, but the theater was the only one in The Villages and was oftentimes crowded. That is a good thing though because it shows that people want to go to the cinema and Old Mill Playhouse always delivered an great experience. The new owner looks to build upon the success laid down by The Villages Entertainment.
(The exterior of the Old Mill Playhouse resembles a building out of the 1930s or 40s during the golden age of cinema. Hopefully the theater is entering a new golden age with the new group.)
We have been told that the Lazy Mac’s Taco Shop and nightly entertainment offered inside the Old Mill Playhouse will close on September 30th. Many residents were shocked to hear this news, especially since the entertainment was a huge draw on many nights. However, it looks like Epic will be bringing some more themed entertainment such as movies out of the 80s and 90s.
They plan a few changes to the concession stands and overall, we hope they have a good vision for this theater. It deserves success and is a really cool and interesting place to watch a film. It is located right in the center of Lake Sumter Landing Town Square. The entire place looks right out of the 1940s, but was only built less than 20 years ago.
We have also been told that The Villages Entertainment will move its headquarters back to Lake Sumter Landing behind the movie theater. I personally worked there for a few years and can tell you that it was a great location for it. The Villages Entertainment Director Brian Russo, Assistant Director Lisa Gruber and everyone who works for The Villages Entertainment works incredibly hard at providing the best product possible.
(Inside the Old Mill Playhouse you have the classic Villages styled carpeting along with all the main theaters along one walkway. It is very easy to navigate.)
It was challenging during those Covid years and still to this day it is a challenge. But the group behind The Villages Entertainment will continue to provide some great things for years to come. They are behind the Square Entertainment and events at The Savannah Center. We do hope The Villages Entertainment continues to thrive as the live nightly entertainment is a fun quirk of The Villages. Who else offers live entertainment 365 nights a year?
We are sad to see Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack close down and we will also miss the entertainment provided inside the lobby of the theater. You can still catch the remaining shows until September 30, so come on out and see one before they are gone for good. It’s a fun, intimate setting that anyone can enjoy.
We look forward to seeing what Epic has planned in the coming months and years for the location.