TO-DO THIS WEEKEND: Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the drive-in theater with a visit to a drive-in. Take a chair and sit under the stars, buy some popcorn at the snack bar, stay for both features, and try to figure out why you stopped (or never started) going. Don’t complain that no drive-ins are nearby, they can still be found in 47 states.
ABOVE: At the drive-in, 4th of July, 2007 . Photo © by Brian Butko
It was June 6, 1933, when Richard Hollingshead Jr opened the first drive-in theater, lighting the night sky in Camden, New Jersey. By the late 1950s, thousands of “ozoners” sat at the suburban fringe of most every town, but then they began closing. Blame TV, VCRs, smaller cars, fewer family movies, less need for a private getaway, Daylight Savings Time, rising insurance on the playgrounds, aging equipment, retiring owners, skyrocketing land values – or all of them – but only 397 theaters remain (with 650 screens). About half of those are members of the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, a group that celebrates the industry and its accomplishments. In fact, Hollingshead’s son, Richard III, was guest of honor this past winter at UDITOA annual convention. Here are some drive-ins still operating on or very close to the Lincoln Highway, pulled from the UDITOA list site plus my own recollection – please send additions:
Sacramento: SACRAMENTO 6 DRIVE-IN
Fort Collins: HOLIDAY TWIN DRIVE-IN – www.holidaytwindrive-in.com
Fort Morgan: VALLEY DRIVE-IN
Sparks: EL RANCHO DRIVE-IN – www.westwinddriveins.com
Kenton: HI-ROAD DRIVE-IN – www.metheatres.com
between Van Wert and Delphos: Van-Del Drive-In
Mansfield: SPRINGMILL DRIVE-IN – www.springmilldrive-in.com
Latrobe: HI-WAY DRIVE-IN
Riverdale: MOTOR VU DRIVE-IN (4 screens)
Tooele: MOTOR VU DRIVE-IN
Chester: HILLTOP DRIVE-IN
This list will now be available as one of the easy-reference pages listed to the right. Check there for updates.