The Legendary History Of Drive-In Movie Theaters

Posted by admin on July 3, 2023

Summer, the season of backyard barbeques, beach bumming and big blockbuster movies. And one of the best ways to experience these blockbuster movies is at a drive-in movie theater. Now, I love cars, so drive-in movie theaters are my favorite way to catch a flick. That’s why I did a little digging into the history of drive-in movie theaters and here’s everything you need to know about their legendary history. 

A savvy businessman named Richard Hollingshead Jr. opened the first drive-in theater in 1933. The outdoor theater was located in Camden, New Jersey and let movie-watchers enjoy films from the comfort of their cars. He did this in response to his mother, who was never comfortable in traditional theater seating—talk about the world’s best son!

Richard also noted that the outdoor theaters made it easy for families with children to enjoy their experience without fear of restless and noisy kids ruining the quiet atmosphere of a traditional theater. He said, “the whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.” 

By the 1950s Richard’s idea had spread across North America and there were over 4,000 drive-ins. Because of the baby boom, families were bigger than ever before, and everyone was looking for a cost effective, family-friendly activity. Drive-in movie theaters were the easy answer. 

Drive-in theaters were also popular date spots for teenagers. The affordability paired with the privacy that came from staying in your car meant many relationships bloomed at the drive-in. 

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and by the 70s people were downsizing their cars, families and late-night leisurely activities. Because of that, many theaters started showing less family-friendly movies and featuring more horror films or even rated R movies. This worked for a while through the 70s and 80s, but soon drive-ins everywhere started to close their doors. 

But worry not, like all things in life, drive-in movie theaters are coming back around. Right now, there are still about 300 located around North America and that number is steadily growing again. With the rise of social media, more people are seeking out “experiences” and the nostalgia of drive-in movie theaters is once again gaining popularity. So if you missed visiting a drive-in in their heyday, don’t worry, your chance may come again soon! 


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