Did you know that the first drive-in theater opened in 1933? A drive-in theater has a large screen, projector and parking spots so you can drive in and watch the movie from your car. The idea was very popular and by the 1950’s there were at least 4,000 drive-in theaters across the United States. However, in the 1970’s interest in drive-in theaters started to decline. With new technology, such as color television sets and movie rentals, families could watch movies at home. Daylights Savings Time caused movies to start later, which also made drive-ins less popular with families. As of 2017, only 330 drive-in theaters are still in operation across the United States.
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Richard Hollingshead, Jr. developed and fine-tuned the idea for the Drive-In theater at his home. He applied for a patent on August 6, 1932, received the patent on May 16, 1933, and opened the first drive-in theater on June 6, 1933. The theater was located in Camden, New Jersey close to Cooper River Park. It had a 40 ft x 50 ft screen and could hold 400 cars.
One of the largest drive-in theaters in history was the Johnny All-Weather Drive-In in Copiague, New York. The theater covered 29 acres. It had space for 2,500 vehicles. Instead of just a concession stand there was a full-service restaurant with roof-top seating. The drive-in also had a playground for children and an indoor theater incase patrons wished to watch the feature in air-conditioned comfort.
The Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop is the world’s largest drive-in theater. There are 14-screens! During the day it doubles as the grounds for the world’s largest flea market.
Other events that led to the decline of drive-in theaters include the 1970’s energy crisis – gasoline for cars was scarce and drive-ins felt uneconomical and extravagant. The implementation of Daylights Savings Time also led to the decline of drive-in theaters. With the shift in time, drive-ins had to start shows later in the evening, which made them less appealing to families.