The drive-in was the creation of Camden New Jersey. Richard Hollingshead Jr. conducted outdoor theater tests in his driveway in 1932.After nailing a screen to trees in his backyard he set a 19328 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and put a radio behind the screen, testing different sound levels with his windows up and down. The Hollingshead drive-in opened June 6.1933. It offered 400 slots and had a 40x50 ft, screen.
For some you,your asking what is a drive-in? A drive-in theater is a form of cinema structure consisting of a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a concession stand and a large parking area for automobiles. With in this enclosed area, patrons can view movies from the comfort of their cars. Screens can be as simple as a wall painted white or it can be a steel truss structure with a complex finish. Sound was originally provided by speakers hung from the window of each car,attached by a wire. The system was superseded by the more economical and less damage-prone method of broadcasting the soundtrack at a low output power on am and fm radio to be picked up by car radios.
Drive-ins peak popularity came in the late 50's to 60's. With 4,000 drive-ins spreading across the us. Advantages were that a family with a baby could take care of the child while watching a movie. Teenagers with automobiles found drive-ins ideal for dates.In the 50's the greater privacy afforded to patrons gave drive-ins a reputation as immoral and labeled passion pits.In the 70's some drive-ins changed from family to exploitation films to make up for the declining patronage and revenue. Some drive-ins used gimmicks to boost attendance. The attractions varied from small petting zoo's,personal appearances by actors, and musical groups. In the 50;s and 60's admission was only a dollar. The biggest drive-in was in Long island New York. It covered 29 acres,and could park 2,500 cars. It had a full-service restaurant with seating on the roof,trolley system to take patrons to a playground and a large indoor theater for bad weather and for those who wanted to watch in air condition.
Overtime, economics of real estate made the large property areas expensive for drive-ins to operate. Land became too valuable for drive-ins,which were in most cases summer-only. Vcr's and video rentals led to a decline in drive-ins. By 2003 drive-ins compromised only 1.5 percent of movie screens in the us.At the industries height 25 percent of movie screens had been drive-ins. Today many drive-ins remain as flea markets or storage.
The conversion of the film distribution network to be exclusively digital distribution. This added additional pressure to the drive-ins.Most drive-ins lack finances due to the fact screens started at 70 thousand dollars. lack of multiple screens with daily showings meant low volume of ticket sales. Going digital is more complex for drive-ins. The projectors need a more powerful bulb since the booth is usually the length of a football field away from the screen.
In 2001 do-it-yourself drive-ins or guerrilla drive-ins started showing up. Most would meet online and head to showings where the films were projected on bridge pillars or warehouses. The best known guerrilla drive-in is Santa Cruz guerrilla drive-in. As of 2012 there are 368 drive-ins. Its not clear which are traditional.
In 2012 I was filming in several locations and had the honor of filming at a drive-in. Before filming one night, I got to see batman the dark night returns in 35mm. It was a great experience and brought me back to when i was a kid going to drive-ins with my family. Here are several pics from the projector room.
Its good to see old school drive-ins still exist! I remember the concession stands,popcorn,yellow salt,dill pickles,hotdogs and candy. It was some of the best memories of my life.