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The Drive-In Theater Turns 75

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/drive-in.html



The continued attraction of viewing movies under the stars

By Robin T. Reid
Smithsonian.com, May 28, 2008

The Drive-In Theater Turns 75
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On June 6, 2008 the flag flying over the U.S. Capitol will commemorate the 75th birthday of a distinctive slice of Americana: the drive-in movie theater.

It was on that day in 1933 that Richard Hollingshead opened the first theater for the auto-bound in Camden, N.J. People paid 25 cents per car as well as per person to see the British comedy Wives Beware under the stars.

The concept of showing movies outdoors wasn't novel; people often watched silent films on screens set up at beaches or other places boasting an abundance of sky. However, it took an auto-parts salesman such as Hollingshead to see the genius in giving a car-loving society one more activity they could do in their vehicles.

He first conceived the drive-in as the answer to a problem. "His mother was—how shall I say it?—rather large for indoor theater seats," said Jim Kopp of the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association. "So he stuck her in a car and put a 1928 projector on the hood of the car, and tied two sheets to trees in his yard."

Hollingshead experimented for a few years before he created a ramp system for cars to park at different heights so everyone could see the screen. He patented his concept in May 1933 and opened the gates to his theater the next month.

The second drive-in, Shankweiler's, started a year later in Orefields, Pa. A few others followed, but the concept didn't really get traction until the advent of in-car speakers in the early 1940s. By 1958, the number of drive-ins peaked at 4,063.

"Drive-ins started to really take off in the ‘50s," Kopp said. "They offered family entertainment. People could sit in their cars, they could bring their babies, they could smoke. Drive-ins offered more flexibility than indoor theaters."

The indoor theaters were more flexible about scheduling, however, and could show one film five or six times a day instead of only at night. So to sell as many tickets as possible, the movie studios sent their first-runs to the indoor theaters. Drive-ins were left to show B movies and, eventually, X-rated ones. And being naughty helped some drive-ins survive.
 

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Dollar night at the Drive Ins, who can forget that .We would pack as many as we could in the car and then hide several more in the trunk (boot to the UK)...One night someone failed to open the trunk and we had several POED people....Shucks we tried to hide people in the trunk on regular pay nights..Got caught once, I had to quit going for a while.....Yup Yup loads of fun.....There are several closed down Drive Ins in Texas and most have historical plaques about when they were built and so forth....

There is at least one or two still showing "family type movies" in the Houston area....Last XXX rated drive ins folded years ago in Pasadena Texas.....The wife and I got an eye full driving down the street next to it one night on our way home from a motorcycle club meeting....Have no idea how it happened but for some reason the projectionist let the picture get too high on the screen....And need I say what we saw.....:shock:... The Pasadena PD didn't think it was funny either....
 

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One of the memories I have from my childhood is on vacation in North Carolina. We were in a cabin somewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway and my older brother got to walk across the hill to sit and watch a movie on the drive in screen.

Mom and Dad wouldn't let me go. I was too young they said. That had to be in the early 60's.

Sure have to admit that I have some fond memories from other drive-in moments.:cooldevil:
 

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There are several drive-in theaters in the Phoenix metro area.

We have one that offers 3 screens, located in the south end of Scottsdale. It is actually on the Salt River Indian Reservation.
 
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