Stephen King once wrote about going to see The Creature From the Black Lagoon with his family as a kid and the impact it had on him. I’m sure many people even much younger than Stephen King have their own drive-in movie stories. Unfortunately, as drive-in films are becoming scarce, younger generations of movie goers miss out on the unique experience that one has at a drive-in.

The Drive-In Theater was invented by Richard Hollingshead who obtained a patent on the idea in May 1933. After perfecting the location of the vehicles and equipment in his backyard, Hollingshead spent $30,000 constructing the theater in Camden, New Jersey with a budget of $30,000. On June 6, 1933, the theater opened with the price of admission at 25 cents per car and 25 cents for every person in the car. The speaker system was next to the screen, making it hard to hear the movie from the back of the lot, but it was an exciting, brand new movie going experience.

Since then, drive-ins began to pop up all over the country. The largest drive-in theater was the All-Weather Drive-In in Copiague, New York. The space occupied 2,500 cars, indoor seating for 1,200, a playground, a restaurant, and a shuttle train that surrounded the lot. The smallest drive-ins consist of the Harmony Drive-In in Harmony, Pennsylvania and the Highway Drive-In in Bamberg, South Carolina. Each could hold up to 50 cars. Of the more unconventional drive-ins was Ed Brow’s Drive-In and Fly-In of Asbury Park, New Jersey which opened in 1948 and seated 500 cars and 25 airplanes. Located near an airfield, Edward Brown’s drive-in allowed planes to park in the last row of the theater and were towed back to the airfield at the end of the film.

What’s fun about going to the drive-in is not so much about seeing a movie but about being in that charged environment. They often show a double or even feature, so movie goers can plan on staying well into the morning. The snack bars often serve nachos, hot dogs, and other meals that you couldn’t find in a conventional theater. Now, the sound often comes through the car radios, so, while the sound quality has improved, it’s still not of surround sound quality, especially for those sitting in lawn chairs outside the car. Action films and summer blockbusters are the most ideal movies to see at the drive-in. There are a lot of distractions, such as screaming children, football throwing,

and snack bar announcements, but they’re not distracting enough to keep one from being able to have a good time. This is why the day that drive-ins become extinct will be the day that Americana will die a little inside.

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