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History of the Drive-In Movie Theater

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History of the Drive-In Movie Theater

The story of the drive-in movie theater begins with one man. That man was Richard Milton Hollingshead, Jr., born on February 25, 1900, the "father" of the drive-in.

The drive-in got its humble beginnings in the driveway of Hollingshead’s Riverton, New Jersey home, at 212 Thomas Avenue. This is where his first experimentations took place. Setting a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of the family car, he projected the film onto a screen he had nailed to a tree. He tested the potential hazards of foul weather by turning on his lawn sprinkler to simulate a rainstorm. His home radio sitting behind the screen to provide sound, Hollingshead sat in his car watching and listening. The car windows up or down, sprinkler on or off, he liked what he saw and heard. And with that, the drive-in’s inception was well under way.

Of course there were a great many problems to work out. But once he felt he finally had his major problems solved, Hollingshead landed the financial backing needed for his venture. His major partner was Willie Warren Smith, also of Riverton. Smith was a cousin and operator of parking lots in Camden, New York, and Philadelphia. The two men formed a company they called Park-In Theaters, Inc. As soon as his patent was granted, Hollingshead assigned it to this company. Other backers in the venture included road contractor Edward Ellis, who graded the first drive-in in exchange for company stock; and Oliver Willets, a Campbell’s Soup vice president who bought stock in the new company.

Construction did not get under way until May 16, 1933, the day the patent was officially granted. The world’s first drive-in opened on Tuesday, June 6, 1933. Most sources site Admiral Wilson Boulev...

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...pulation because more people rushed into the industry to try to score a quick million.

Drive-ins today sit at the edge of extinction. The last handful may be around yet for decades. But they are finished as part of the American landscape, and no new ones will ever be built. For those still around, it is only a matter of time, before they, too, disappear, forever.


Margolis, John & Emily Gwathmey. "Ticket to Paradise–American Movie
Theatres and How We Had Fun." Little, Brown, and Company. (Boston, Toronto, London); 1991. P. 139, 144.
McKeon, Elizabeh & Linda Everett. "Cinema Under the Stars–America’s Love
Affair with the Drive-In Movie Theater." Cumberlabd House. (Nashville, Tennessee); 1988. P. 41
Segrave, Kerry. "Drive-In Theaters–A History from Their Inception in 1933."
McFarland & Company, Inc. (Jefferson, North Carolina); 1992.

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