At the Drive-In | Robert Frank / Diane Arbus / Allan Grant / J. R. Eyerman / Bruce Davidson / Wayne Miller / Loomis Dean (1933 - 1966)

The first drive-in theater, in Camden, New Jersey, 1933 
Drive-in theater, 1933

In May 1933, Richard Hollingshead, a sales manager at an auto products store in 
Camden, New Jersey, patented a new idea: an outdoor cinema where people could 
watch films from the comfort and privacy of their cars.

First drive-in theatre in the state, Los Angeles, 1935 

Hollingshead was motivated to develop the idea after witnessing his mother’s difficulty
sitting comfortably in a movie theater. He tested out various arrangements of projector,
screen, radio and cars in his own driveway, eventually settling on the auditorium-like
configuration of a screen facing a series of raised terraces that gave each car an
unobstructed view.

Drive-in theater, 1938

After receiving his patent, Hollingshead founded Park-In Theaters, Inc. and
built a drive-in with enough space for nearly 400 cars.

Diane Arbus, Clouds on Screen at a Drive-in-Movie, New Jersey, 1960

The “Automobile Movie Theater” opened on June 6, 1933 with a screening of the
1932 comedy Wives Beware. Admission was 25 cents per car plus an additional
25 cents per person, slightly more expensive than an indoor theater but with the
freedom to eat, smoke and otherwise take advantage of an automobile's privacy.

J. R. Eyerman, Los Angeles, 1949                                     Drive-in theater, Los Angeles, 1949


Failing to make a profit, the first drive-in closed after just three years, but others
quickly popped up across the country and sparked a slew of lawsuits from Hollingshead.
His patent was ultimately overturned, clearing the way for thousands of more drive-ins to
be built. At their 1950s peak, drive-ins numbered nearly 5,000 countrywide.

Loomis Dean, Drive-in theater, Los Angeles, 1949
California entrance to a drive-in cinema, 1938

"The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are."

Advertisement for First Drive-in Theater

Allan Grant, Drive-In Theater at San Fransisco, 1948                                                             Drive-In, 1950s
Family night at the Drive-In, 1952
Actors Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in scene fr. film Beach Blanket Bingo, shown at drive-in movie theater, 1965
Burt Glinn, USA, Love & Marriage, 1961
Robert Frank, Drive-in, Detroit, Michigan, 1955
Bruce Davidson, San Francisco, 1966. A Trip West: A drive-in theatre
Visitors of a drive-in cinema, California, 1938
Cars at a Drive-In Theater, Whitestone, Queens, New York, 1948
Wayne Miller, Illinois, A drive-in theater between Flora and the village of Louisville, Illinois, 1960 


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