In May 1933, Richard Hollingshead, a sales manager at an auto products store in Camden, New Jersey, patented a new idea: an outdoor cinema where people could watch films from the comfort and privacy of their cars.
Hollingshead was motivated to develop the idea after witnessing his mother's difficulty sitting comfortably in a movie theater. He tested out various arrangements of projector, screen, radio and cars in his own driveway, eventually settling on the auditorium-like configuration of a screen facing a series of raised terraces that gave each car an unobstructed view.
Check out the amazing drive-in theaters:
The first drive-in movie theaters
The first drive-in movie theaters
Carhop w. flashlight hanging from her neck as she carries tray of food & drinks to car occupants at drive-in movie. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
5/21/1938-Los Angeles, CA-ORIGINAL CAPTION READS: Motoring and motion pictures achieve a happy wedding in the Drive-In Theater of Los Angeles. The theater is a parking lot with graduated tiers from which motorists, seated in their own cars, watch the films projected on a giant screen. Synchronized amplifiers in front of each automobile make speech audible in all parts of the lot. Here's a view of the entrance to the theater with customers about to drive in.
1930+s, Los Angeles, USA, A picture of a Drive-in Cinema, where motorists can see films from their own cars (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
People buying tickets at the Olympic Drive-In in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles, California. Original Publication: Picture Post - 5298 - We Go To Hollywood - pub. 1951 (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 6/13/1951-New York: A general view of the Whitestone Bridge Drive-In Movie Theater. The theater, one of two in the Greater New York area, sprawls over 22 acres accomodating up to 1,200 cars. The screen is four times the size of an ordinary screen, and there are two projectors.Drive-in theaters are growing increasingly popular. Today there are 3,000 such theaters in the U.S., 800 more than there were just a year ago.
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 30: The Car Drivers Watching A Movie From Their Car In Los Angeles. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Drive-in theater sign advertising 'River Of No Return,' starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe, Westbury, New York, 1954. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Vehicles fill a drive-in theater while people on the screen stand near a new car, 1950s. (Photo by New York Times Co./Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - 1973: The famous landmark restaurant Mel's Drive-in, in a scene from the Universal City Studios production of 'American Graffiti' in 1973 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
People watch an unidentified movie from inside their cars at the Whitestone Bridge Drive-in Movie Theater, the Bronx, New York, June 20, 1951. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
People watch an unidentified movie from inside their cars at a drive-in on Long Island, New York, 1950s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Full-length image of a woman standing next to a parked car in the middle of the road, looking up at a sign that reads, 'Drive-In Theatre'. (Photo by George Enell/Getty Images)
Cars at a Drive-In Theater | Location: Whitestone, Queens, New York, New York, USA.
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After receiving his patent, Hollingshead founded Park-In Theaters, Inc. and built a drive-in with enough space for nearly 400 cars.
The "Automobile Movie Theater" opened on June 6, 1933 with a screening of the 1932 comedy Wives Beware. Admission was 25 cents per car plus an additional 25 cents per person, slightly more expensive than an indoor theater but with the freedom to eat, smoke and otherwise take advantage of an automobile's privacy.
Failing to make a profit, the first drive-in closed after just three years, but others quickly popped up across the country and sparked a slew of lawsuits from Hollingshead. His patent was ultimately overturned, clearing the way for thousands of more drive-ins to be built. At their 1950s peak, drive-ins numbered nearly 5,000 countrywide.