Thursday, October 2, 2008

Richard M. Hollingshead

Today we honor Richard Hollingshead for his invention of the drive-in movie theatre.

The inspiration for his invention is uncertain, was he trying to sell more cars (his family owned Whiz Auto Parts), make his mother more comfortable at the movies, or create an environment where he didn't have to dress up to view a movie?

While the reason is unknown, Hollingshead saw an opportunity and in 1932 began work on developing the first drive-in theatre. Using his driveway as a test area, the inventor nailed a sheet between two trees and used a projector to begin testing his idea. A radio behind the screen served as the sound. Hollingshead worried about cars in the front rows blocking the view of people in the back rows and so he developed ramps and spacing schemes to help combat this problem. The patent he received for this design was revoked years later.

In 1933, Hollingshead and three other investors built the first drive-in theatre in Camden, New Jersey. They charged 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person for admission to the theatre.

Hollingshead invention sparked a new craze and reached its peak of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. While not as common today, drive-in theatres can still be found all over the world, especially in rural areas. Many drive-in theatres are closed for the season, but a few are still open for Halloween movie showings.

Sources:
Drive-In Theatre History
about.com History of Drive-Ins

2 comments:

Will Luther said...

"They charged 25 cents per car and 25 cents per person for admission to the theatre."

We still have a drive-in near Portsmouth and I have always found the pricing scheme (charging per person) a little odd. Often times all of my friends would drive separately and then sit in the bed of one truck. Charging per vehicle would prevent this behavior, but no doubt kids would cram in like sardines and split the bill 17 ways.

It is interesting to see the original drive-in pricing scheme mitigated both problems. I wonder why this scheme fell out of practice...

gt said...

nice blog. you have a typo in your blog roll, division of labor