Episode 98: First Drive-In Movie Theater Opens

A group of movie-goers sit on a couch in the back of a pickup truck waiting for a movie to begin at Rodeo Drive-In near Bremerton, Wash. For more on Rodeo Drive-In, visit their website by clicking here (Photo courtesy of Rodeo Drive-In)

Today marks the 82nd anniversary of the opening of the first drive-in movie theater.

Here are some things you may not know about them:

First, the original drive-in theater was located in Camden, N.J. and was the brainchild of Richard M. Hollingshead Jr.

His theater had space for 400 cars and a 40-by-50 foot screen with speakers located on a pole near the screen.

The first movie shown was “Wife Beware” starring Adolphe Menjou.

Second: In 1941 RCA introduced the traditional drive-in speaker, which was connected by wire to a post and hung inside the window of the car.

This innovation solved two problems: Noise pollution surrounding the theater and poor sound quality inside the cars.

Theaters later began using low-power radio stations to broadcast audio directly to car radios.

Third: In the United States, drive-in theaters reached their peak in the early 1960s with more than 4,000 facilities across the country.

Several causes are cited for the decline of drive-ins: Color television, video tapes, land prices and the adoption of daylight saving time.

As of 2013, there were 389 theaters in operation.

Our question: How much did it cost per person to get into the first drive-in theater?

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