Monday, March 3, 2008

Drive-in movies

Drive-in Movie

Have you seen the new Chevron Cars ad with the Drive-In Movie Theater? Have you ever been to a Drive-In movie? If you’ve been to one, you know that the family piles into the car on a summer night and heads to the outdoor movie theater.

The screen looms up, huge against the dark night sky and your family pulls the car up to a parking slot. After picking up some popcorn at the concession stand and placing the speakers in the car window, you are ready to sit back and enjoy the movie. Or if it’s really hot, you and your family sit outside the car on the camp chairs you brought along, leaving the speakers on their poles to project the movie sound.

Not so long ago, there were Drive-In theaters everywhere in the country. How did they get started and what happened to them? The first Drive-In Theater was the brainchild of Richard M. Hollingshead. He started by hanging a sheet between two trees in his backyard. That was the screen. His driveway was in a direct line with the sheet, so he mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car.

Car Tire

Richard put a radio behind the sheet for sound and started testing his idea. He tested sound with the windows up, down, and halfway in between. He wanted to test different weather conditions so he turned up his sprinklers full blast and created a little rainstorm. Things were looking pretty good.

There was however, one problem. If cars lined up directly behind each other, people couldn’t see the whole screen because the car in front was in the way. So Richard began lining cars up in his driveway, working out the right spacing and finally realizing that if he placed blocks under the front wheels, the problem would be solved!

Excited with his new invention, Richard went to the U. S. Patent Office. On May 16, 1933, Richard Hollingshead was granted Patent #1,909,537 for the first Drive-In Movie Theater. (A patent gives an inventor exclusive use of his invention. The patent protects him/her from someone else coming along and stealing the idea.) Richard opened the world’s first Drive-In Theater on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey.

Over the next several years, Drive-Ins sprang up everywhere. The steady growth of Drive-Ins only slowed during World War II. Gasoline and rubber for car tires were in short supply because they were needed for the war effort.

At first the idea of a Drive-In was strange to people. To help their future customers understand how it all worked, new Drive-Ins would host an Open House during the day. They would show people how to park, how the sound system worked and what food was available in the concession stands. As many as 400 cars would show up for an Open House.

Some Drive-Ins created a playground between the screen and the front row of cars. Families began to arrive early so the children could play before the movie. A few Drive-Ins practically became amusement parks, with miniature trains, pony rides, miniature golf and animal shows. You could order dinner from your car by pushing a button on the speaker and the fried chicken or hamburgers would be delivered to your car by a carhop. And of course, during intermission there would be singing cartoon snacks on the screen encouraging you to buy your favorite one!

Drive-Ins were a favorite form of entertainment until Cable TV and VCRs became popular in the 1980s. Now it was easy to see all the Hollywood movies right at home. Many Drive-Ins had to close because of dropping attendance. From 5,000 in 1958, there are only about 800 Drive-Ins left today. Sadly, five of the 50 states no longer have any Drive-Ins at all.

On June 1st, Drive-In Movie Theaters across the country will celebrate Richard Hollingshead and his invention with a variety of special events. Summer is just around the corner and maybe you can talk your family into a night out(side) at the movies!

1 comment:

venkat said...

Yeah nice information to here.India too need this kind of facilities