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For Ozoners Only -- On this day, in 1933, the first drive-in theater opened

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 6, 2012 11:22am | Post a Comment
THE FIRST DRIVE-IN

Ad for Hollingshead Drive-In's opening night
An advertisement for the first Drive-In 

The first drive-in theater opened on 6 June, 1933 at 2901 Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. It was the invention of Richard M. Hollingshead Jr, who'd began screening films outdoors at his home with a 1928 Kodak projector sat on the roof of his car. He applied for a patent for his "invention" on 16 May, 1933. The feature film shown at his theater was the British comedy, Wives Beware.

Hollingshead's Drive-In Theatre Camden, New Jersey
The world's first Drive-In Theater

Before long, drive-ins, or automobile movie theaters, were opening in other states. California's first drive-in was the Pico Drive-In at 10850 W. Pico Boulevard, which opened  West Los Angeles in September, 1934. It was demolished in 1947 and was replaced by the Picwood Theatre in 1948. The Picwood closed in 1985, was demolished and replaced with the Westside Pavilion -- which includes the Landmark Theatre.

Pico Drive-In
The Pico Drive-In

DRIVE-INS' PEAK

Young Couple Snuggling in Convertible as They Watch Large Screen Action at a Drive-In Movie Theater

Although Hollingshead's pioneering theater closed in 1936 after only three years of operation -- a victim of a battle with Paramount Pictures -- the idea was popular although blasting sound outdoors necessitated the theaters being placed in less-developed areas.A major drive-in innovation occurred in 1941, when RCA introduced in-car speakers. Popularity exploded and by 1948 there were nearly 1,000 drive-ins. By the end of the 1950s, drive-ins accounted for 40% of theater grosses. In California, the number of drive-ins peaked in the 1960s, reaching 220.

THE RISE OF HOME VIDEO AND DRIVE-INS' DECLINE




Drive-ins popularity plummeted in the 1970s with the rise of home video's popularity. Family nights out could now be family nights in for the low price of a rental and some microwave popcorn. Betamax was released in 1975. VHS was introduced in Japan in 1976 and the US in 1977. DiscoVision, a precursor to LaserDisc, was introduced in 1978. Our family got our first VCR in 1978, coincidentally the last year the family went to the drive-in that I remember (Rocky at the Circle 25 Drive-In in Lexington, Kentucky -- demolished in 1982).

DRIVE-INS TODAY - CALIFORNIA LOVE

Drive-In Theater
Thou shalt support drive-in theaters!

Nowadays there are about 500 drive-ins operating in the US and California – where cars double as family rooms -- is home to more than any other state. In the Southern California, drive-in lovers have some options.


SOCAL'S DRIVE-INS


HiWay Drive-In Theater marquee
The HiWay, SoCal's oldest functioning drive-in

Devil's Night Drive-In
is sort of an improvised drive-in/outdoor screening that takes place in a downtown parking garage at 240 W 4th St and screens mostly '80s movies to car-goers, bike-goers and people seated on a patch of astroturf. On 28 October, 2012 it is scheduled to relaunch as Electric Dusk Drive-In.

The HiWay Drive-In opened in Santa Maria in 1959. Today it’s the only remaining drive-in in Santa Barbara County.

The Mission Drive-In opened in Montclair in 1956 as a single screen. The original screen was demolished and replaced by four smaller screens in 1975. It was later re-named The Mission Tiki Drive-In.

The Paramount Drive-In opened as The Roadium Drive-In in Paramount in 1947. The screen went dark in 1991 and it re-opened in 2014 as The Paramount Drive-In.

The Rubidoux Drive-In opened in Riverside in 1948, with a single screen and amusement park rides thrown in. In 1983, two more screens were added.

The Santa Fe Springs Drive-In opened in 1950 in Santa Fe Springs as the La Mirada Drive-In. In 1965, they added a permanent swap meet – now a common feature at drive-ins. In 1990, in fact, the screen went dark except for rare, special occasions but the swap meet continues.

The Santee Drive-In Theatre opened in Santee in 1958 as a single screen drive-in. Around 1964, a second screen was added.

The Skyline Drive-In opened in 1966 in Barstow and went dark in 1987. In 1996, it re-opened as a single screen and has since added a second.

Smith’s Ranch Drive-In opened in 29 Palms in 1954 and has a pretty small (330 car) capacity.

The South Bay Drive-In opened in 1958 and is San Diego’s last operating drive-in.

The Sunset Drive-In opened in San Luis Obispo in 1950 as a single-screen theater and remains largely unchanged today.

The Van Buren Drive-In Theatre opened in 1964 in the historic Arlington neighborhood in Riverside.

The Vineland Drive-In opened in City of Industry in 1955 and has four screens.

*****

If you've never been to a drive-in show, you really need to do yourself a favor by visiting one in the near future. Especially in SoCal, where you've got great weather, serious car love and a fair number of these treasures still operate.
*****

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Socal (4), Southern California (12), 1960s (43), California (13), Drive-ins (1), Drive-in Theaters (1), 1950s (25), 1940s (23), 1930s (19)