I was born at the end of the fifties so I got to miss a lot of fantastic movies being shown in drive-in theaters. It was a time that was made for romance as the teenagers of the 1950s took their dates to drive-in movies. It all started in 1933 on the grounds of Park-In Theaters which was the very first drive-in movie theater and it was located in Camden, New Jersey. I do remember that some of these kinds of theaters were still around in the 1960s and while I and other children were spending the summer in the Catskill Mountains sometimes parents would take us to see a drive-in movie if it was one appropriate for children. I loved that – sitting in the car, having munchies and watching the movie on a huge screen with the sound coming in through a mike you attached to the car window.
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The idea of the drive-in came from Richard Hollingshead who was a movie fan. Hearing his mom complain about uncomfortable movie theater seats he decided it would be a great idea to be able to watch a movie in the comfort of your own car. He ran several tests in the driveway of his own home and also checked to see how the equipment could be protected in case of inclement weather such as rain. When he opened Park-In Theaters he charged 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person. It was an idea that spread rapidly and drive-in theaters started showing up all over the U.S. One of the largest was the All-Weather Drive-In in Copiague, New York featuring parking space for 2,500 cars, a full-service restaurant, and a children’s playground.
Drive-In theaters became an icon of American culture and it was a typical dating destination and a place to go on the weekends for families. Mostly the theaters were in suburban areas and out in the country where there was plenty of space. As with many things, the time for drive-in theaters came to an end due to the rise of regular movie theaters and the convenience of them concerning the location and of course also video rentals came along eventually. Today only 336 drive-in theaters remain in the U.S. I loved that scene from the movie “Grease” where everyone is at the drive-in and John Travolta sings “Sandy”.