The year is 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. Movie fan Richard Hollingshead just mounted a Kodak projector to the hood of his car parked in the driveway. Next, he reaches for a screen to pin between two trees before he places a radio behind it. Frustrated that his mother couldn’t get comfortable in traditional movie theater seats, Richard was determined to find a way for her to watch a film from her car.
A few minor modifications and a patent later, Richard’s project led to the design of the nostalgic, outdoor cinema experience we all remember so well… the drive-in!
The end of WWII and The Great Depression, meant families were reunited and celebrating. While money was difficult to come by as Americans got back to work, the drive-in was affordable entertainment for the whole family. At just .25 cents per car, folks could enjoy classics like Gone With The Wind, King Kong, The Wizard of Oz, and Dracula.
More than 100 years later, in small towns across the nation, friends, families, and neighbors still carry on Richard’s vision that movies are best enjoyed under the stars. The drive-in atmosphere remains the same. The smell of funnel cakes and fresh popcorn from the concession stand fill the air, folks find a comfortable place to snuggle up in a blanket with those they love, and settle in to watch the double feature.
One of the largest was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York, which featured parking space for 2,500 cars, a kid’s playground and a full-service restaurant, all on a 28-acre lot.
Today, the mix of young and old lining up on the side of the road at sunset continues to rise. (many with grandkids, a date, or the family dog in tow!). While there may only be fewer than 350 drive-ins left in America, theater owners nationwide are funding the upgrades for stronger bulbs and digital projectors hoping to keep the gates open for generations to come.