Take a Brief Intermission to Appreciate the Drive-In Theater
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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