Friday, June 6, 2008

The Drive-In Theater Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary

June 6th marks the 75th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater. Created by chemical company magnate Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr., the first drive-in opened in 1933 in Camden, NJ and was advertised with the promise "The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are". I have vague recollections of my parents packing me, two of my siblings, and some of my other young relatives into the Buick Wildcat so that we could all go to the drive-in movie. Because I more than likely would fall asleep at some point while at the drive-in, I would be dressed in my PJs before we left for the theater; that way, I would be ready for bed once we got home. If memory serves me, one of the movies we saw during one of our drive-in excursions was THX 1138 (all I remember is that the characters were bald headed).

The drive-in theater saw its peak popularity in the late 50s and early 60s, with about 4,000 screens spread throughout the U.S. The drive-in is also one of the key pop culture touchstones, being featured in films (Grease, Christine, The Outsiders, etc.) as well as songs by artists such as Elvis Presley (I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine), Nat "King" Cole (Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer), Bryan Adams (Summer of '69), and Gwen Stefani (Bubblepop Electric). Due to a variety of reasons (economics, the rise of color TV, the VCR, etc.), the drive-in theater eventually experienced a sharp decline. Today, there are about 500 drive-in theaters operating throughout the world.

If you get the chance, I recommend checking out Billed as the definitive source of drive-in information, the site features an historical overview, a searchable database to locate both open and closed theaters, an FAQ page and much more.

If you have any, what are some of your recollections of going to the drive-in theater?


The Rock Chick said...

I do remember going to drive-in theaters! My parents were really fond of them and we would go quite a bit. I remember there was some kind of dancing hot dog movie that aired before the movie started.

There was a drive-in theater not too far away that was open at least through my high school years. I remember going there with a bunch of friends to see the movie "Humongous". Which was awful, by the way.

pjazzypar said...

Talking about a blast from the past! I told Clarence if I hit it big at the Lotto I would open up a Drive-In/ Bowling Alley / Roller Skating Rink, all dying venues. I remember getting dressed in my pajamas to go the Drive In and see the latest Elvis movie or whatever was current. The popcorn would be prepared at home to save money.

In the mid to late 70’s during my teen years , I use to Northland on Dort Hwy and get as many of my buddies as I could into the trunk of the car and drive around to the concession stand and let them out. Then we would enjoy Blaxploitation at its finest.

By the 1980’s most of the drive-ins in the Flint area had closed down, due to waning interest because of the advent of the metroplex. When I moved to Long Beach lo and behold, a drive-in. Soon they started to disappear in California too! The last movie I saw at a drive-in was “Soul Food” in 1997. Thanks for putting me in “The Wayback Machine” and taking me back to a fun time in my life.

By the way is the US-23 in Fenton still open, I remember it being one of the last drive-ins still operating in the area?

Holly Smith said...

Even though I was born in the 70s, we did have a drive-in theater in our small town. However, thanks to Hurrican Alicia (1983?) it got damaged and was never rebuilt.
I remember watching ET there with my family. I also remember watching several other movies without sound (b/c my aunt lived in apartments that were close enough to see the screen). As a kid I thought that she was so clever to find an apartment with her own personal movie theater.

Lori said...

Wow, drive-ins! My Dad was big fan of them when my brother and I were pre-school age. Like you, we'd be dressed in our PJ's and generally fell asleep before the main feature. I do remember there being cartoon previews, like The Road Runner and Wiley Coyote, mainly because my Dad used to laugh so hard at them (LOL). Thanks for the fun memories.

Malcolm said...

The Rock Chick: The only dancing hot dog I recall was the one that appeared in the drive-in scene of "Grease" when John Travolta sings "Sandy". I just looked up "Humongous" on it does look awful.

Pjazzy: Your idea of opening a Drive-In/ Bowling Alley / Roller Skating Rink would be kick ass! I remember you saying that Aunt Lillie was a big fan of Elvis movies.

The US-23 Drive-In is still open. If they are showing something worthwhile, I might go just as a change of pace from sitting in a theater. Now, I have a taste for some popcorn, just dripping with butter!

Holly: Your aunt had a good thing going with her apt. being close to the theater. When I had an apt. in Marquette in the late 80s/early 90s, there was a venue close by that sometimes had concerts. I remember being able to hear Richard Marx and the Beach Boys pretty clearly.

Lori: It's probably a money issue, but I wish that movies would go back to showing cartoon shorts before the actual movie. If done well, I think they would go over well with the audiences. It's better than sitting through the commercials that they screen.

Remarketing tags may not be associated with personally identifiable information or placed on pages related to sensitive categories. See more information and instructions on how to setup the tag on: --------------------------------------------------->