As I mentioned in Part 1, the 1970s were the heyday of dinner theaters, and in 1976, there were 147 professional dinner theaters in operation.  It was very popular back then to use former movie stars in these productions.  A few stars who found success in dinner theatre are JoAnne Worley, Shelley Berman, Jane Russell, Van Johnson, and Lana Turner.  A few stars even owned their own dinner theaters, such as Burt Reynolds and Earl Holliman.

The dinner theater boom declined towards the mid-1980s, with many of the theaters closing down.  The aging stars started receiving offers for work in television and commercials, and so they stopped performing in dinner theater.  With TV or commercials, they were making more money. Show costs and food costs are the largest cost areas, and the main reasons for the drop in the popularity of Dinner Shows and Dinner Theaters.  The reduction in professional dinner theaters went from 147 in 1976 to 9 in 1999.

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However, since that time, vacation destinations such as Las Vegas, Nevada; Florida; Branson, Missouri; Anaheim, and Los Angeles have seen the emergence of specialty dinner theatres, where the show stays the same for an extended run because the vast majority of their customers are tourists, not local residents.

Orlando, Florida, the most popular vacation destination in the United States, had more than a dozen competing for a share of the $17.3 Billion that tourists spent in 1999. Through the 1990s, sixteen Dinner Theaters opened and closed here.  The Orlando area has still managed to keep several entertaining dinner shows, including Capone’s Diner & Show; visit our dinner show directory for more information.  Most of the professional theaters still exist because they put on a great show, with a lot of audience participation.  Some of these specialty theaters include themes such as murder mystery, pirates, equestrian shows, and gangsters.

Last Updated on April 5, 2018