This post is part of our series ranking the top 25 bygone products and trends we'd like to see return.
The drive-in movie was born in the 1930s on a residential driveway in New Jersey, where Richard M. Hollingshead developed a workable combination of projection, screen, sound and vehicle position. The website www.driveintheater.com states that the very first drive-in theater opened on Tuesday, June 6, 1933, showing the movie "Wife Beware." By the end of the decade, 18 drive-in theaters were in operation in the U.S.. By 1958, nearly 5,000 drive-in theaters were in their twilight entertainment glory.
As a little kid, I saw my first movie on the big screen at the 41 Outdoor Theater on the outskirts of Appleton Wisconsin. It was there that I was introduced to the antics of Herbie in The Love Bug. I also thrilled to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, and fell immediately in love with her. I watched Kurt Russel grow up under Disney's watchful gaze in movies such as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. As I grew older, the outdoor still offered thrills such as Clint Eastwood's "B" westerns in the open air. Some of the first entries to the "slasher" genre also debuted on drive-in screens, including the first version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which far outclassed the recent remake of that film).
If I lived close enough to one of the few drive-in theaters still operating or a new one that has opened, I can assure you that I'd be attending it a few times a year. You see, although the viewing experience may be a bit shy of that which is offered in today's multiplexes, there's just something about sitting in the womb of your car with a big tub of popcorn and your best girl at hand that can't be achieved through any other means. In fact, it's my theory that the drive-in movie theaters were possibly the single largest contributor to the baby boom. Maybe you should find a drive-in theater near to you and see if my theory is right.
What coming of age joys would you like to see revived?