The drive-in movie theater is one of those treasured American inventions that has yet to grow obsolete. Even though our country's advanced technology now allows us to watch movies on innovative devices, from HD plasma screens to Ipods, there's just something romantically old-fashioned about sitting outside and enjoying a film projected onto a huge screen.
In 1932, Richard M. Hollingshead, from Camden, New Jersey, created the first makeshift drive-in in his backyard. Hollingshead mounted a 1928 Kodak projector onto the hood of his car, nailed a sheet to a tree to act as a screen, and put a radio behind the screen for sound. After testing his invention for sound and different weather conditions, Hollingshead opened up his own drive-in theater a year later. His advertisement read, "The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are."
Hollingshead's idea soon caught on, and by 1942 there were 95 drive-ins across 27 different states. From 1948 to 1958, the number of drive-in movie theaters rose from 1,000 to 5,000. The "family" appeal to drive-ins became really trendy, because it was something the entire family could enjoy. In fact, some theaters would open hours before the movie would even start just so customers could have picnic dinners, socialize and simply hang out.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, drive-in popularity was dropping off, most notably due to subsequent innovations of colored television, VCRs, and video rentals.
In recent years, however, the drive-in has been making its comeback, and hundreds of theaters nation-wide now thrive on nostalgia for simpler times. Some places are even putting a spin on the traditional aspect, like the guerilla drive-in trend, in which theaters are usually located in urban spaces and feature cult classics or independent flicks.
Take a look at the sites below to learn more drive-in facts or find theaters near you.
History of the Drive-In
Read all about the history of the drive-in movie theater on Inventors.com, from Hollingshead's background to the full story behind the invention and exactly what happened afterwards.
DriveInMovie.com offers information on each state's participation in the drive-in movie trend, as well as short write-ups of theaters still open.
Facts, finding theaters, and other drive-in movie info
Though a few pages on Drive-Ins.com don't work anymore, it does provide some interesting facts and useful tools for the drive-in movie buff. For example, you can check out some statistics about the number of drive-in movies throughout the years. The site also lets you search by zip code for an open drive-in location in the U.S., or you can look at Google Earth's Drive-In Theater Map to see exactly where a theater is located. Make sure to follow the drive-in movie theater guidelines, see what events are going on, and check out updated showtimes.
Popular Mechanics magazine gives a step-by-step guide on how to create your own drive-in cinematic experience anywhere. The corresponding video and photos are also helpful.
MobMov, a guerilla drive-in enthusiast group, offers the "MobMov Manifesto," the ultimate instruction manual for someone seriously looking to open a theater. The guide also gives diagrams, recommended products, and extra information on how to deal with snacks, donations, and how to create an intermission.