Coming Now – Drive-In Movie Theaters Re-Imagined
By Edie Johnson
In Governor Cuomo’s Monday COVID Briefing, to many it seemed like permission for Drive-In “Movie Theatres” to reopen was the highlight of the speech, maybe even for the week. Partly because people are literally ‘bored sick’ at home. But also wondering about re-imagining them as a new safe large-gathering venue. Sick at heart over the lack of exciting opportunities to celebrate High School Graduations, and even “stepping up” to Middle School, one school after another came up with the idea to have the held at good old Drive-Ins, of which we have several in the area. But what about other uses: concerts, Zoom In Person Craft and Art Shows. You name it, some Americans may not be feeling 100%, but our sense of creativity and invention is alive and well. In fact, we are eager this week to hear of our readers’ other ideas for safe large venue gatherings as bit by bit our County prepares to open.
If there is stock in Drive-In sites, now might be a good time to invest in what may be the biggest fore-runner of COVID-19 re-openings. And one can only guess what other venues they might be used for….in the safety of one’s car. Some towns, and even homes are already borrowing the idea, “What about a big screen in a Mall parking lot”. And some parents are back to the family gatherings in their home or holding backyard picnics … social distancing in practice, watching favorite movies under the starlight.
The first drive-in movie theater in the U.S. opened in 1933 in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey. It was Richard Hollingshead, a sales manager for his father’s auto parts company, who thought it would be fun to be able to watch a movie from the comfort of one’s own car.He first tested the concept in his yard by using a projector with a screen made of sheets tied to trees in his yard. On June 6th 1933, his theater opened. His advertising line was “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are”. The charge in that initial year was 25 cents per car, plus 25 cents for each person. The sound system then was powerful speakers near the movie screen. This required the cars windows to be left opened. It also created a sound delay for the cars parked in the rear of the lot. The business type was then known as a “Park-In Theatre” – the term “Drive-In” was not established until years later.The drive-in concept at first spread very slowly throughout the country. By the start of World War II in 1941 there were 15 drive-in theaters in the U.S.. It would be after the war in the early 1950s when drive-ins began appearing throughout the U.S..By this time the sound issue had been resolved as each car was given an individual speaker that mounted inside the window. The peak year for the drive-in was 1958 when there were 4000 drive-in theatres across the country.
Both Senator James Skoufis and Senator Jan Metzger weighed in on the announcement, saying they’ve been advocating This follows action taken by Senators James Skoufis and Jen Metzger calling on the state to permit school districts the opportunity to use drive-in theaters as a venue for graduation ceremonies.
Senator James Skoufis said, “Drive-in theaters are an inherently low-risk space given people’s isolation in their cars. They also present a creative, safe opportunity for school districts as they consider graduation ceremony plans. Last week, I sent a letter to state education officials along with my colleague Senator Metzger urging them to look at innovative ways to commemorate high school graduation, including using the Warwick drive-in movie theater as a possible local alternative. While I am pleased to see drive-ins will officially be open and available, I encourage the State Education Department to provide school districts with guidance on their use for commencement ceremonies.”
The big question is “Will there still be popcorn? And will it be slathered in butter.?”