Outdoor Theatres in the 1950's
by Jena Redwanski
Although Drive-In Theatres started popping up around the United States in 1948, there were less than 1,000 until the 1950ís. By 1958, there were already more than 5,000.
Indoor theatres began closing their doors due to the great impact of the outdoor theatres during the same 10 years.
In 1958 there were only 12,000 remaining indoor theatres compared to about 17,000 in 1948.
The two largest outdoor theatres were located in Detroit, Michigan and Lufkin, Texas, both holding up to the maximum of 3,000 cars.
The smallest were located in Harmony, Pennsylvania and Bamberg, South Carolina, both holding a minimum of only 50 cars. Size never mattered. Almost every night, the theatres were packed to full capacity.
Not only were the drive-in movies fun for adults, they were also fun for the kids. Some theatres featured pony rides while others featured miniature trains, boat rides and talent shows.
Some of the theatres opened their gates up to 3 hours before the shows started, all of which are double-features. This was mainly to get everyone in, especially the theatres that could fit 3,000 cars.
Growing up, we would always bring Frisbees, footballs, baseballs, etc. to play with before the shows started and once the screen turned on, we got into the cars, found the radio station and turned it up really loud so that we could lay on our sleeping bags outside and watch the movie.
The drive-inís have always been fun for me and my family. We used to go all the time when I was a kid and Iíve tried going every year since we quit going as a family.
The intermissions have always been the same, with the talking hot dogs and sticks of chewing gum telling you to ďvisit our refreshment centerĒ.
Some theatres actually allowed their customers to order food straight from the car.
After you ordered, what people called a ďcar hopĒ would bring the food right to you.
With the invention of trailers during intermission, the theatre refreshment centers upped their sales and no one was left hungry.
Most concessions featured hot popcorn, pizza, ice cold soft drinks, candy, hot dogs, hamburgers and even barbequed sandwiches.
Today, there are very few outdoor theatres still open.
A total of about 528 spread across the entire United States, still packing their parking lots during the summer with those folks who still enjoy the double-feature screen, the refreshments you just canít seem to pass up and all the romantic thoughts that go along with the drive-in movie.
Maybe one of these days, more people will really begin to miss all the fun they used to have at the drive-in and introduce it to their family and all of their friends.
I hope that sooner or later, more drive-inís will open or re-open for that matter, and that more people will have the opportunity to see how the atmosphere at an outdoor theatre affects everyone who is there to see the famous double features.
more articles by