Thursday, September 27, 2018

Drive-in Movie Theaters.

Drive-In, Theater, Vintage, Movie  I have fond memories of everyone piling into the back of the station wagon loaded with kids, blankets, pillows, and munchies.  Dad would drive us to the outdoor movie theater where we'd pay one fee and drive in. Dad usually parked towards the back in site of the snack bar with all the bathrooms.

We'd try to get there during all the previews so we could get comfortable and set up.  We'd pull the speaker inside, turned up the volume and we were ready to go.

The first drive-in opened in 1933 in Camden New Jersey.  Originally, these were called Park-in theaters as they'd come in and park.  Richard Hollingshead came up with the idea.  Before he received the patent in 1933, he experiment with a variety of projectors, sound systems, and parking situations to find the optimum situation. 

With a $30,000 investment, he opened his Park-in Theater which advertised fun for the whole family.  Although he charged 25 cents per person and 25 cents for the car, he didn't charge any group more than $1.00.  The second drive-in opened one year later in Orefields, Pennsylvania but they didn't really do much growth until the invention of the car-in speakers in the early 1940's. Once his patent expired in 1949 and the in car speaker developed, the idea caught on and drive in theaters sprang up across the country.

One of the largest on 28 acres of land that could park 2,500 cars, had a children's playground, and an a full service restaurant, was found in New York State. The post World War II era made drive in theaters even more popular, growing to over 5,000 theaters in the 1960's.  One reason drive-in's took off is that they were better for families than indoor theaters.

The whole family could all come, including babies so no one needed a babysitter.  In addition, people could smoke without offending anyone.  Since then, due to the rising value of the real estate associated with drive-ins,  the number of theaters has dropped until there are no more than 500 in existence today.

Most drive-ins showed B grade movies, or the newer movies during their second run. They were a part of growing up in the 50's, 60's, and 70's.  I remember seeing several movies I would never have gotten to see in the theater because it was too expensive for the family to go but drive-ins were affordable for most families.  As the availability of films changed, drive-ins often resorted to showing adult films but when that happened, they didn't last long.

On the other hand, a new phenomena has grown across the United States.  Many cities now offer movies in the park where people bring their chairs to a nice green area. The city has set up a screen and choose to show a movie at night, creating fun family times.

Unfortunately, both drive-ins and theaters under the stars were restricted to certain seasons since both are outdoors.  In addition, rain often made it much harder to watch the films.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.


  1. Lee, I loved going to the drive-in when I was a kid! But thinking back, I wondered how we managed--with two parents and four kids packed into the car all evening!

    1. sounds like my family. We'd all have blankets and pillows in the back of the station wagon to sleep in. It was like a huge social event. Thanks for visiting.