Journal: Take a Brief Intermission to Appreciate the Drive-In Theater

Take a Brief Intermission to Appreciate the Drive-In Theater

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
June 11, 2014

While not strictly an American phenomenon, the drive-in theater remains a deeply ingrained part of American pop culture. And while the first drive-in was patented in New Jersey in 1933, their popularity didn’t really explode until the 1950s when baby boomers began growing up, car ownership increased, and rural land was still relatively cheap (the rise of the drive-in coincided with suburbias’ rapid expansion).

And in many cases they made more sense than indoor theaters from an economic perspective as well as being more attractive to many different types of moviegoers. First of all, they were great for young families that might be less inclined to take a baby to the movies. Teens with access to a car liked dark drive-ins for the obvious reasons. And people who didn’t have enough money to go to the movies on their own could pile into a friend’s car, then jump in the trunk before the gate to save some cash.

Sadly, their appeal diminished for two reasons. From the owners’ perspective, the economics no longer made sense as real estate prices increased (ironically, due to suburban growth). But attendance also decreased as home entertainment technology improved. With the advent of color television, home recording technology (VCRs and the accompanying video rental stores), and video games for kids there just wasn’t as much reason to leave the house. There are still a very few left, but for now we can enjoy this bit of nostalgia.

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Christopher Wilmot
Christopher Wilmot

Surprisingly, Elko Speedway, the racetrack by my parents place, just opened up a drive in theater! It’s immensely popular. Although, it might be more of the novelty instead of a true enjoyment for the drive in.

Todd Cox
Todd Cox

While on a cross-country trip with my youngest son (TX to VA) in my 1996 MX-5, we stopped for the night to visit with my sister who lives just outside Richmond, VA. That night we all went out for a movie at the [url=””]Goochland Drive-In[/url]. It was the first time my son had ever been to a drive-in, and even better in a convertible under the warm, starry, VA skies. The owner is also a car buff, and has a gorgeous replica of Herbie, The Love Bug, adorned in the red, white, and blue stripes with the ’53’ meatball. What… Read more »

Jon Tabor
Jon Tabor

We still have a drive-in in our town, still owned by the same family that built it in the 50s. Honda recently ran a contest to help bring the drive-in into the 21st century, by letting people vote for the top drive-in theaters. The top 5 (I think it was) got new digital projectors. Of course, that’s just part of the battle — with a digital projector comes upgrades, including air conditioning in the projector booth, a computer to run the system, and possibly upgrades to the screen. One major benefit, aside from being able to screen modern movies distributed… Read more »