Park-Ins to Drive-Ins: the rise and decline of America’s Favorite Pastime


Ashton Livingston and Gage landauer

The first Park-In Theater was opened in 1933 by Richard Hollingshead in Camden New Jersey. He came up with the idea first when his obese mother couldn’t fit in the seats at the local theater. Hollingshead worked in his father’s autoparts store and had always been a movie fan so his Park-In theater concept was a marriage of two facets of his life.
He hung two sheets between the trees in his yard and put a projector on the hood of his car and sat her down for a movie. Most of the initial experiments were done in his yard with different sound and projection strategies. He found the perfect way to park cars to make sure that every car could view the screen. In the 1933 he filed the patent which lasted until 1949 and once the patent expired the name began to change the name to Drive-In.
Watching movies outside wasn’t new, people had been watching movies at the beach but the idea of watching movies in cars was novel and great for society that loves cars. Drive ins became popular for their freedoms given. you could bring your dog, smoke cigarettes, and at some places their were playgrounds for children.
These luxuries became popular with the baby boomer population because they could bring the entire family. And later in the fifties once Hollingshead’s patent for the park-in theaters drive-ins began popping up all over the country. The largest one that ever opened up was the Copiague, New York, it was 28 acres and had parking space for 25,000, a playground, and full service restaurant.
The decline of Drive-Ins was due to multiple factors. For instance, the sound quality was poor for a long time before they began using the radios in the customers cars. Drive-Ins also could not afford to play anything other than B-movies most of the time even in their hay day. And it became hard to make a profit during the off season when the weather was poor. It also became hard to pay the property taxes it became more practical to sell their land to developers. During this decline too survive most Drive-ins resorted to playing extremely violent horror films and pornography.
People love the drive in. “My favorite aspect was being able to watch older movies that cake out before I was born on the big screen, like in a theater.” William Dunlap, a graduated McMinnville High student, stated about the drive in.
Yearly events at the drive in are always a fun tradition. Whether or not it’s Rocky Horror Picture Show or Ghostbusters, it’s always a fun time. “The yearly events that I really enjoy are the showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show because it’s a cult classic and many people who enjoy it as well are there and I feel welcomed into the community,” Stated Stevie Case, a Senior at McMinnville High.
The Drive in in Newberg is one of the last of its kind, it’s practically a national treasure! “It is important in that it provides a great family activity for locals and tourists one in the same. It’s a piece of American history, and with so few of them left in the U.S. it’s become a nostalgia trip for lots of folks. People will bring old cars and DeLoreans to the showings and it’s generally just a convivial experience.” claimed Sarah Schultz, a Senior at McMinnville High.
The Drive in is an amazing place to be, and a lot of people agree. It’s a great place for tourists and locals alike.