Richard Hollingshead, a businessman in Camden, N.J., came up with the idea of an outdoor theater in 1932 when he set up a Kodak projector and a screen in the trees of his backyard. The idea was patented with the first theater opening on June 6, 1933.
Drive-ins, as they became known, perfectly suited a nation obsessed with cars. Families could bring small children without worrying about noise, teenagers could hang out with their friends and the backseat offered more privacy than a theater row. Fewer drive-ins are around today than in their heyday in the ’50s and ’60s, but here is a look back.
A woman standing next to a parked car in the middle of the road, looking up at a sign that reads, “Drive-In Theatre” in an undated archival photo. (George Ennell/Getty Images)
An aerial view of a drive-in theater in White River Junction, Vt. (Corbis)
Vehicles fill a drive-in theater while people on the screen stand near a new car, 1950s. (New York Times Co./Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A group of people sit in and lean on a Buick convertible car as they watch an unidentified cowboy movie at a drive in, mid 1970s.(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Dick Helzberg, left, hands a bottle of pop to a drive-in customer, and notes the growing popularity of his soda stand, which does a huge business in the sweltering 102-degree temperature around Kansas City, Kan. His sign manages to include a warning about mixing liquor with driving, not a bad rule in any weather. (Corbis)
The Cinemotor Theater in Los Angeles is a parking lot with graduated tiers from which motorists seated in their cars, watch the films projected on a giant screen, May 1938. (Corbis)
A couple kissing in the front seat of a convertible at a drive-in movie theater, 1940s. The man in the next car ignores the couple, resting his elbow on the window. (Getty Images)