First Drive In-Movie Theatre

June 6th Celebrates First Drive In-Movie Theatre

On June 6th 1933 the first drive in movie theatre opened in Camden New Jersey by a fellow by the name of, Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr.

Who was Richard Hollingshead?

In the early 1930s, he was working as a sales manager in his father’s auto parts company, Whiz Auto Products.

According to one story, his mother was a large woman who was uncomfortable sitting in a regular movie theater. So he began experimenting at his home in Camden, New Jersey, using his car, a 1928 Kodak movie projector, and two sheets nailed between two trees for a screen.

Eventually, he came up with a ramp in each parking space, so that patrons could elevate the front of their cars to see the screen without being blocked by other vehicles. He applied for a patent on August 6, 1932, and was granted the patent on May 16, 1933.

Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933, on Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Pennsauken, a short distance from Cooper River Park. Rosemont Avenue now runs through the prior location.

Today’s YouTube video clip from user name CRI WPU, shows how the first drive in theatre came together back in 1933.

The drive-in’s peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in rural areas, with some 4,000 drive-ins spread across the United States.

Among its advantages was the fact that a family with a baby could take care of their child while watching a movie, while teenagers with access to autos found drive-ins ideal for dates.

In the early 1970’s many drive-in theatres started to decline, because of the oil crisis led to a sharp decline of attendance as well to the widespread adoption of daylight saving time, which made the shows start an hour later, making it harder for drive-ins to operate successfully.

The 1980s real estate interest rate hikes made the large property areas increasingly expensive, and thus far too valuable for businesses such as drive-ins, which in most cases were summer-only. Drive-ins were also subject to the whim of nature as inclement weather often caused cancellations. Less than two hundred drive-ins were in operation in the U.S. and Canada by the late 1980s.

Some drive-in theaters still remain today, but were converted into storage units, or open flea market sites.

Sadly I never been to a drive in theatre, but the flea markets I’ve been too I can still see the BIG giant screen that gives a taste of what is was like from a blast from the past.

With technology the way it is, where you can see an actual movie on your tablet while you sitting comfortably in your car, we say farewell to the drive in theatre, but what an interesting story it was.

Who would ever think a small city in New Jersey came with the idea?

Written and Designed by JD Mitchell

J.D Mitchell Design Studio


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