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Drive-In Theaters: America's Favorite Past Time

Updated on March 12, 2013

For years drive-in theaters were the place to be on the weekend. What more could you ask for? One location provided not only entertainment, but a place to socialize and eat. Many of you probably remember the great times you had at your local drive in and saw them slowly close down. Here's a brief history of one of America's favorite past times and their decline.

A Little History

Drive-ins have been a past time of America since the 1930's. Drive-ins were created to bring the entire family together (and yes this includes infants). Families of any size could spend time together, teens could be with their friends and even go on dates! It took about a decade to master the problem with hearing the films. Different techniques were used to create sound including placing speakers into the actual screen- this technique created an echo affect, which caused the voices and sound to be off. Finally the idea came to create individual speakers which connected on the car itself-- this allowed for families to hear the entire film inside the car or out.

Drive-Ins saw their peak in the late 1950's to early 1960's. At this time there were over 4,000 drive-ins in the United States. It was hard to create revenue when the films needed to viewed after the sun set. Often drive ins only operated on the weekend, which caused a limit in the profits they could make. The weather could also interfere with making a profit and most locations only operated in the summer. In such an unstabilized environment drive-ins had to look for other ways to produce. The options were limited to providing more films for people to watch. In the 1970's some theaters ended up showing what we would refer to as rated "R" films, while others decided to show pornographic films to reach a bigger audience. This strategy was one of the main reasons why drive-ins started declining at a rapid pace. Patrons didn't feel comfortable bringing their families to the same location pornographic movies would be showing later on in the evening. Land started becoming more valuable and more costly to maintain. Advances in television and especially the VCR also helped end the drive-in era.


Are There Still Operating Drive-Ins Today?

At this time there are over 400 operating drive-ins left in the United States and still operate the same. Some use FM/AM radios to broadcast the sound, which makes it more convenient to listen to the films. Here are some great websites that will help you locate a drive-in near you!

I've been lucky enough to grow up with a drive-in theater within twenty miles of my home. It's a great place to take the family, go with friends or even alone. The cost is very affordable- two films that are currently showing in movie theaters for around $6.00 a person. If you've never been to a drive-in you should definitely place it on your bucket list!


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    • hpedneau profile image

      Holly Pedneau 6 years ago from Princeton, West Virginia

      Thanks all, I really appreciate the feed back!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      ...well at 53 years old I remember the heyday of Drive-Ins and my first restricted movie was EASY RIDER starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper - my parents snuck me in the back seat.

      Great work here - you obviously put a lot of effort into your hub subjects and that's always nice to see - and thank you for your endorsement of my humble little hubspace - coming from a special person like you that really means a lot to me!

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      Indigital 6 years ago

      Ah, wish we had these in England. I guess cinemas with IMAX + 3D have just overwhelmed the need for drive-ins around America. Disappointing too, it was an amazing American past-time, let's hope these 40 keeping rolling.

    • rick combe profile image

      rick combe 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks for reminding me of this, and thanks for the links!