The First Drive-In Theater was invented by Richard M. Hollingshead. Hollingshead worked out the details by hanging a sheet for a screen in his backyard. Richard began to experiment in the driveway of his home at 212 Thomas Avenue, New Jersey. Richard mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, he used it to project onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard. He placed a radio behind the screen for sound, then started his test of his idea. Richard tested sound with the windows up, down and half way. He tested many weather conditions, using his lawn sprinkler he simulated a rainstorm. Richard liked what he saw and heard.
One main problem did arise in his test. That was if cars were parked behind each other, the cars at the rear would not be able to see the whole picture, due to the car in front. This did not stop Richard, he lined up cars in his driveway spacing them at various distances and placing blocks under their front wheels he was able to find the correct spacing and the correct angles to build ramps for the cars front tires to park on. Thus was born the first Patent for the Drive-In Theater. Next we find Richard at the US Patent Office on August 6, 1932. He is explaining about his invention. On May 16, 1933 he get a patent # of 1,909,537 the first Drive-In Theater patent ever. Later in May of 1950 the patent was declared invalid by the Delaware District Court.
By January of 1942 Drive-In theaters had began to spread across the U.S. There were 95 Drive-Ins spread across 27 states. Ohio led the way with 11 Drive-Ins. The building of new Drive-Ins slows durring the U.S. involvement of World War II. Only six drive-ins are built. Many problems face the Drive-ins durring this time. Rubber for tires is in short supply since it is needed for the war effort. Gas rationing was in effect durring part of this time frame. Many theaters close down for as much as 2 years. In 1946 the number of theaters goes from 102 to 155. By 1948 there are 820 drive-in theaters across the U.S.
The drive-in boom was under way. Going from less than 1,000 in 1948 to close to 5,000 by 1958. The drive-in etched it’s place in history, not just in the U.S.A. but in many countries across the world. During the same years of 1948 to 1958 over 5,000 indoor theaters closed reducing their number from 17,000 to 12,000. One of the largest Drive-In Theaters was the All-Weather Drive-In , Copiague, New York. parking spaces for 2,500 cars. It also had an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, that was heated and air-conditioned, a playground, a cafeteria, a restaurant with full dinners. A shuttle train that took customers from their cars to the various areas, on the 28 acres.
Stagnant best describes the 60’s and 70’s. There are still drive-ins being built, but many are closeing. The hay day is gone, many theatres even pull out thier playground equipment in the 70’s since few families are attending. Many of the movies target a teen or adult audience. Examples the beach movies of the 60’s and the movies in the 70’s like “The Van” “Texas Cheerleaders”, etc.
The 80’s started out fair and got very bad before they end. Low attendance almost kills the drive-in. Many owners say it hits over night. “Last year 500 cars on a Friday this year 50 cars.” What’s happening? Many things hit to pull people away from the drive-in. Some of the biggest are Cable TV and VCR’s. Hollywood is right to our home, so why go anywhere?
Something happens in the 90’s, the number of theaters closing slows down. Many drive-in add extra screens, many go Twin, some go Tripple, a few go Quad, one in Florida goes 13 screens!!!!! The crowds and the families retun. Many owners say they have to close the gates some nights, because they run out of space to park cars. Also if you look at the crowd you see mostly families with young children, just like the crowd of the 50’s, it seems that a new generation has discovered the drive-in.
Arkansas has 3 Drive-In’s still open
3352 North Highway 112, Fayetteville, AR 72703 (501) 442-4542
Stone Drive-In Theatre
Hwy 87, Mountain View. AR (501) 269-3227. built in 1965
Kenda Drive-In Theatre
Marshall, AR 72650 (501) 448-2393 Built in 1966
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