Top 25 things vanishing from America: # 6 -- Drive-in theaters


This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.

I fondly remember going to the drive-in with my family on hot summer nights in Jersey City. We'd have to test out several spots until we found one with working sound. The show would usually start with cartoons, then there would be a long intermission while cartoon-like promos pushed the snack bar. Finally the movie would start.

Well, those types of family nights are getting harder to find. During the peak in 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. Exactly zero new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and five reopened in 2006, so there isn't much of a movement toward reviving the closed ones.

Richard Hollingshead, Jr. invented the first drive-in in 1933 because he wanted a place the family could go together to watch a movie and not have to get dressed up, get a baby sitter or worry about parking. Prior to his invention, kids would go to the matinee and adults would dress up and go to the evening show.
Update: the number of drive-ins dropped to only 384 by the end of 2008.

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