Drive-in theaters celebrate 75th anniversary

posted by MagicLantern on June 6, 2008 at 11:00 am

First drive-in theatre opens in Camden NJ on June 6, 1933.

The concept was developed by Richard Hollingshead Jr., who experimented with various projection and sound techniques in the driveway of his house. Using a 1928 Kodak projector mounted on the hood of his car and aimed at a screen pinned to some trees, Hollingshead worked out the spacing logistics to make sure that all cars had an unobstructed view of the screen.

He received a patent for his idea in May 1933 and opened his first drive-in theater only three weeks later. They quickly fanned out across the country.

More at Wired.

Comments (4)

WayBackWhen2008 on June 6, 2008 at 11:57 pm

Where was the very first drive in? What city, state?

Norfolkvatheaternut on June 7, 2008 at 12:07 am

Drive In’s turn 75 today and the carbon arc lamps that light up the massive widescreens are still burning bright somewhere in America tonight with a kick butt double feature. Drive In’s are now as much a part of living American History like The Alamo and Gettysburg.

June 6, 1933: Camden, New Jersey, Richard Hollingshead creates an idea that became a giant unto itself.

The mid to late 1930’s into the 1940’s: Drive In’s flourish briefly till the outbreak of World War 2 and go dark for the time being. After WW2 Drive in’s are re-lit and the business takes off from there.

The 1950’s: The Pinacle of Drive In Success ! Drive In’s are cropping up across America quickly and it’s frosty neighbor to the North, Canada. This is the time that parents started worrying about their teenage children having pre marital sex at Drive In’s and the nom de plume “Sin Den” is tagged on to Drive In’s from then on.

The 1960’s: Business is sliding as the big studios are refusing to market their first run features to Drive In’s so they market their B Grade Movies instead. Some Single Screeners either fold or go double to keep afloat. A majority of single screeners start doing “Dusk till Dawn” Marathons.

The 1970’s: With the unleashing of theatrically basd porn most Drive In’s become nothing more than outdoor smut palaces and are faced with either two options, keep on showing porn or go out of business. Alot of Drive In’s disappear by this time and the rest keep porning away. The harp is playing it’s sleepy time music and the giant is falling asleep.

1980’s: Cable Tv comes into full power and so does home video. This is truly the beginning of the end of the Drive In. Only a small handfull are operational throughout the small rural communities in the Mid West. Those that are operational have gotten with the times and started being more family friendly. In big cities Drive In’s are demolished and replaced with Commercial Real Estate Housing, Industrial Business Center Complexes and Major Chain Retail Box Stores such as Wal Mart and Target.

The 1990’s: The Drive In numbers at first were miniscule but start to climb back up like a sleeping giant being slowly awoken from it’s slumber. Some people want their local Drive In’s back in action.

2000’s: 75 years later on June 6, 2008 Hollingshead’s sleeping giant has fully awoke and is getting up on his feet. New and improved Drive In’s are opening up and also originals are being overhauled and reopened. Also at this writing the Drive In is being revisualised by a world wide band of guerilla movie enthusiasts who gather in abandoned empty warehouse lots after dark and show movies via dvd and video projection on to large white wall surfaces. This is called MobMov or Mobile Movie. Despite the fact Hollywood hates this, MobMov’s are becoming all the rage and will no doubt be the boost that classic Drive In’s need to really get going again.

steelbeard1 on June 7, 2008 at 8:17 am

After the first drive-in theater opened, Wilson Shankweiler passed through Camden, NJ and saw that drive-in theater. He had some vacant land behind his hotel in Orefield, PA near Allentown. So he decided to turn that vacant land into a drive-in theater which opened in 1934. Today, Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre is the oldest drive-in theater and is still in operation.

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