Drive-in Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933

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Communities Battle Drive-ins 60 7. The Golden Years, s 64 8. The Golden Years, Showmanship 78 9. The Golden Years, Selling Food 89 Strange Drive-ins 99 Foreign Drive-ins Drive-ins Battle the Elements Drive-ins Pray for a Miracle Drive-in Sound The Audience Sex in the Drive-in Sex on the Drive-in Decline and Stagnation, s and s Rapid Descent, s and Beyond Conclusion Appendices 1. Richard Hollingshead Patent 2. Louis Josserand Patent 4. Early Drive-ins 5. Financial Data 6. Number of Drive-ins, by State 7. Show More. Average Review.

Drive-In Theaters: A History from Their Inception in by Kerry Segrave

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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. A primarily American institution though it appeared in other countries such as Japan and Italy , the drive-in theater now sits on the verge of extinction.

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  6. During its heyday, drive-ins could be found in communities both large and small. Some of the larger theaters held up to 3, cars and were often filled to capacity on weekends.

    The history of the drive-in from its begi A primarily American institution though it appeared in other countries such as Japan and Italy , the drive-in theater now sits on the verge of extinction. This was the era of the sock-hop, jukebox , and the drive-in.

    Drive-in Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933

    Sadly, not even this iconic theater could survive the onslaught of the 'big box stores', like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond, whose proliferation has led to the tearing down of countless structures to make way for their personalized strip centers. In the Pickwick was torn down to make way for a Staples office supply store. This type of story was not uncommon, and perhaps they helped lead to a greater consumer appreciation of the quaint theaters, because they knew their alternative was just another Target or office supply store, which they already had plenty of.

    But as previously discussed, drive-ins needed a large amount of space to operate, so as suburbs and towns across the country became more developed and populated, people were less and less willing to drive 20 minutes outside of town to where the drive in might have been located. Lozano, Segrave. With the advent of the multiplex and the megaplex multiplex is up to 20 screens, a theater with over 20 is a megaplex , the drive-in suffered.


    The birth of these mega movie houses is often connected to the emergence of the 'blockbuster' film. The first of which is generally agreed upon as Steven Speilberg's Jaws, released in Once it became obvious to the major studios that a film could easily gross over ,, the benchmark for what constitutes a blockbuster at that time , they began producing and strategizing film releases based around that model. It was all about being bigger and being better.

    Mutiplexes and megaplexes were the ideal venue in which to screen a blockbuster. They could house tons of people, in large, comfortable, air conditioned spaces with cushy stadium seating, free from worry about the weather or bugs. The mega theaters began to appear in various shapes and sizes around the late 60's, and were fairly common by the late 70's, and these theaters weren't limited to the suburban realm.

    With vertical architecture they could easily be installed in cities. The flashy new centers housing 8, 10, 12, 16, and even up to 25 movie screens began drawing crowds by the droves. One of the primary complaints of drive-in goers was the sound quality or lack there of. With the multiplex, not only were those concerns eliminated, but audiences were getting top of the line, new sound technology like the Dolby Digital or THX systems which were like nothing you had ever heard before.

    The drive-in unfortunately became seen as passe, and outdated. People didn't want to get left behind, and megaplexes were the future of cinema.

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    This is also in conjunction with the corporate takeover of industry. The small, often family owned drive-in theaters were almost no match for the large corporations like AMC who were challenging them, so unfortunately they were left with few options: allow themselves to get bought out, or stay in business and probably lose money. The drive in became the kitsch local attraction that was more of a novelty than seriously patronized business.

    Teenagers would still go to get their privacy, but families started transitioning over to the multiplexes. Another way drive-in's continue to live on is through the estalishment of "guerilla drive in's. With so many theater's across the country closing down and going out of business, citizens have found ways to get their drive-in fix. The guerilla drive-in is a practice where people set up make shift drive-in theaters in temporary locations to show just one or two movies. The organizers use anything they can find to act as a screen, often times these locales include the sides of buildings or abandoned warehouses.

    Unless they are employing the use of their own private abandoned warehouse wall, this practice is illegal unless the organizers seek permission prior to screenings. But the practice of the guerilla drive-in proves that for devoted fans, creation of your own passion pit might be easier than you think. One of the reasons thought to have contributed to the great success of drive ins in the mid 20th century was the fact that it merged two of the most prolific inventions of the era: the automobile and the motion picture.

    But ironically, that concept might have contributed to the waning interest in the theaters in the 21st century. Neither the car nor the motion picture are models of technological advancement anymore and people's attentions are focused on newer and better things. And since the novelty for both films and cars has long since worn off, the novelty of an invention that combined both of those would also have worn off.

    They even have their own official stamp. Although more and more of the theaters close down every year, their legacy is etched into the history books of America. Today, the tradition of "movies in the park" that has become popular, especially in metropolitan populations, can be seen as a modern day reincarnation of the drive-in feel. Especially in big cities like New York where a drive-in theater would not be logistically possible, movies screened in public spaces like Central Park and Bryant Park help give citizens the community viewing experience that the drive-in's became famous for.

    Some formerly closed drive-in's have even reopened as non-profit community theaters, like Hulls Drive-In in Lexington, Virginia.

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    Raskin, Reader's Digest. It is now common for traditional theaters in rural areas to show movies in 3D, often times they are animated children's films. Movies like James Cameron's Avatar were filmed entirely in 3D, and screened not just in traditional theaters, but also in IMAX mega theaters across the country. The standard IMAX screen measures 53 feet by 72 feet, which is about 10 times larger than the conventional movie theater screen. Movies for IMAX are shot on a special camera that uses 70mm film instead of the tradition industry standard 35, and this allows them to capture incredibly detailed and rich imagery and then to not lose any of that quality on the mammoth screen.

    Currently, only one drive-in from the list of the original 15 built is still in operation:. Located in Orefield, Pennsylvania, the landmark establishment celebrated its 75th birthday in They are open each year from April through Labor Day.