Tuesday 6th June 1933
Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in movie theatre in Camden, New Jersey. Hollingshead was the sales manager for Whiz Auto Products in Camden when he came up with the idea for the drive-in. He acted on the notion that few Americans at that time would give up the pleasure of going to the movies, had they the chance. In 1933, though, movie going wasn’t a family event, as few couples felt comfortable bringing their kids to the theatre. Going to the movies involved getting dressed up, finding a babysitter, and driving down to a crowded Main Street to look for parking. Hollingshead believed that the drive-in would solve these problems: moviegoers didn’t have to park their cars or dress up, and the kids could join their parents. Hollingshead began to experiment in his driveway at home. He mounted a 1928 Kodak film projector on the hood of his car and projected onto a screen he’d nailed to two trees in his backyard. He placed a radio behind the screen for sound. He even ran tests in simulated rainy conditions by running his sprinkler on his car while watching films. He also planned the cars’ spacing by using his friends’ cars to simulate a crowded theatre. By using risers, he found he could afford all cars a view. He went to the patent office on August 6, 1932, and on May 16 he received exclusive rights for his idea with U.S. patent #1,909,537. A Delaware court later overturned the patent in 1950, but not before the inventor got his due. Hollingshead spent $30,000 on his first drive-in on Crescent Boulevard in Camden. The admission price was 25¢ per car and 25¢ per person, with no car paying more than $1.00.