Edited by Samuel Cameron
Mark Fox and Grant Black INTRODUCTION The drive-in cinema concept was developed during the Great Depression by Richard Hollingshead, Jr. He was motivated by a desire to create a business with good cash flow and a limited reliance on credit. Initially Hollingshead opened a gas station/restaurant where customers could also watch outdoor movies from their vehicles. This concept was intended to take advantage of three of the four things that he believed people would give up last during tough economic times (that is, food, automobiles and movies). After dropping the gas station, Hollingshead worked on modifying the drive-in cinema concept and eventually devised and (in 1933) patented a system of terraced parking ramps that positioned cars so as to not block one another’s views. He patented three features of his invention: a fan-shaped parking lot, terraced rows and ramps that tilted cars upward for viewing/parking (Downs, 1953). The first drive-in cinema opened in New Jersey on 3 June 1933, accommodated up to 400 automobiles, and showed the second-run British comedy, Wife Beware. Sound was provided by three loudspeakers. Admission was 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person, with a maximum overall admission fee of a dollar (Segrave, 2006), and a concession stand sold beer and light meals (Shaw-Smith, 2009) (25 cents is the equivalent of $4.16 in 2009 dollars). In comparing his concept to regular four-wall theatres, Hollingshead spoke enthusiastically of the convenience of drive-ins: The mother says she’s not dressed; the husband doesn’t want to put on...
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