Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Where was the first drive-in theater in the United States?

While the drive-in movie theater has gone the way of poodle skirts, saddle shoes and lacquered hair, there are still a few of them around.  We vacation in Beauford, SC and there is a huge drive-in theater there.  Locally, here in my neck of the woods, there is one in Athens, TN.  The one I spend time at when I was a teen in New Jersey was torn down in order to build a shopping mall many years ago.

When a drive-in closes we hear about, read about it and remember it…but do you know when and where the very first drive-in theater opened in the US?  I do….

Old film movie camera.

  • Date:  June 6, 1933
  • Where:  Camden, New Jersey
  • Cost to get in:  25 cents per car
  • Inventor:  Richard Hollingshead
  • His occupation:  Auto parts salesman

He didn’t start out big, but because of someone big.  His mother was a large woman who didn’t want to go to indoor movies because of the size of the seats.  Since necessity is the mother of invention he invented something to help his mother.

According to Jim Kopp of the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association:

“…he (Richard Hollingshead)  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."

He fine tuned his invention by adding ramps to the yard so that cars in the back could see the movie better.

His strange but interesting concept received a patent in May, 1933 and the rest is history, literally.  Ask the current generation what a drive-in movie theater is and they probably have no clue.  Whereas the older generations can remember them and the good times they provided!

I remember going to the drive-in on dates, but I also vividly remember only telling my parents I was going to the movies, leaving out he ‘drive-in’ part! Oh the memories!

Drive-in movies are unique and if you have one near you it might be fun to revisit it as who knows how long it will last!  Popcorn always tasted better at the drive-in theater!


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