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First drive-in theater

Updated Jan 14, 2022
Daniel Pinna
Daniel Pinna shared a photo
on Jun 05, 2012 10:37 PM
Description:
Vintage car driving into one of the earliest drive-in theaters in California sometime in the early or mid 1930's.

The drive-in theater was created by Richard M. Hollingshead Jr. when he first nailed a screen to a few trees in his yard, aimed a 1928 Kodak projector from the hood of his car, and placed speakers behind the screen. Richard continued to experiment with various settings, included neighbors, and found that people gravitated towards watching films outdoors. Due to people's interest, Mr. Hollingshead applied on August 6th 1932 for a patent and was given U.S. Patent 1,909,537 on May 16, 1933.

The drive-in theater quickly gained popularity and became most popular in the late 1950's and early 1960's when over 4,000 drive-ins appeared across the United States.

Some of the first recorded drive-in theaters include:
Drive-in theatre: Camden, New Jersey June 6th 1933 [Update 1/13/22 thanks to D. Hatin: It was actually located off Adm Wilson Blvd in Pennsauken Township NJ on June 6 1933, not Camden Mr Hollingshed also tested the idea in his driveway at his home at 212 Thomas Ave in Riverton NJ. The general area of Pennsauken was also the site of the first commercial airport to serve Philadelphia - Central Airport. It was also the site of the first highway traffic circle in the world.]

Shankweiler's auto park: Orefield, Pennsylvania July 5th 1934

Drive-in short reel theater: Galveston, Texas July 5th 1934

Pico: Los Angeles, California September 9th, 1934.

This particular photo might be of the Pico drive-in in Los Angeles California. Pico attempted to solve the noise pollution issue of early drive-ins by introducing a row of speakers in front of the cars (as opposed to next to the screen or on towers) in 1935. This issue was resolved in 1941 when RCA brought in-car speakers with volume control to the industry.

The advertisement in this photo reads:
DRIVE-IN THEATRE
SIT IN YOUR CAR
SEE AND HEAR TALKING PICTURES
ON THE WORLD'S LARGEST SCREEN
CALIFORNIA'S FINEST
Date & Place: at Pico drive-in theater in Los Angeles, California USA

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