The Drive-in Theater - An American Tradition

in life •  last year

The Drive-in Theater - An American Tradition
How culture was changed forever, by this forgotten icon.

Early Drive-in
Photo Credit: Pinterest

The advent of the automobile was the impetus behind the founding of the first Drive-In Movie theater.

The Drive-in had a profound effect on American Culture that still echoes to this day; food, sex and family life were all impacted in major ways.

Besides movies, the theaters would eventually feature, playgrounds, barbecue/fire pits, petting zoos and of course the ubiquitous Snack Bar.

Drive-ins reached their peak in the 1950's, with over 4,000 in the United States, Canada and even as far away as Australia. Some could accommodate as few as 36 vehicles, with the largest Drive-in, located in Michigan able to hold 3,000 cars!!!

Today there are less than 300 Drive-in theaters left and many of those are open only in the Summertime, selected weekends or for special showings.

The First was Not

Although often cited in history, the first drive-in, theater did not open in Camden, New Jersey in 1933. The fact is that many attempts were made before hand, as early as 1910.

Even though drive-in theaters would later number in the thousands, the Camden New Jersey theater, was a money losing enterprise and went broke almost immediately!!!

Food and Dining Habits

1950's Drive-in
Photo Credit: vintage everyday

Just like casual dining would be popularized by the California Coffee Shop, the Drive-in movie industry had lasting effects on the way and what Americans ate.

While burger stands and other fast food existed before the drive-in theater, the popularity of "Fast Food" was definitely helped by the convenience of dining at the Snack Bar.

An exotic food, almost unknown to the American pallet was popularized, after first being served at the Drive-In Snack Bar

Photo Credit: Silvermoon Drive-in

Pizza wasn't even sold in the majority of Italian restaurants, but its popularity as a drive-in food, forever cemented it in American culture.

Photo Credit: Yelp

Nachos with Cheese was (unfortunately) the first introduction for many to "Mexican Food". Despite this less than elegant introduction, today Mexican Food is increasingly popular throughout the world.

Sex and More Sex

Photo Credit: complex

We will probably never know the actual number of "Drive-In Babies" that were conceived in the back seat of Mom & Dad's car.

In contrast to parking in remote spots to "Make-Out", the drive-in offered a safe and secure semi-private place to explore your teenage sexuality. A sure sign of teenage activity was fogging of the windows, which had the side benefit of increasing your privacy.

Video Killed the Drive-In Stars

Photo credit:

The advent of better indoor movie theater sound/video and the introduction of Color TV heralded the beginning of the end for the Drive-in industry.

Gone, but not Forgotten

Photo Credit: Cinema Treasures

As of today, there as less than 330 (probably less) operating Drive-in theaters in the U.S. Their legacy is still felt by people today, even though for most they are more akin to a Greek Myth, than reality.

Photo Credit: Fandango

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Very informative. Cool post!

Followed :)


Thank you for taking the time to read my article and to comment.

The first movie I can remember seeing in a Drive In was "Your Cheatin' Heart (1964) The Hank Williams Story." My Father was a big Country Western fan and he piled all of us Kids in the back of the Station wagon to go see this movie. I was seven years old and fell asleep during the first movie before the Feature film so I missed it.


Having you fall asleep was all part of the parent's secret plan to have alone time. Good memories and good times.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


yes probably lol

I remember the Drive-In. The one in our town closed over a decade ago.


My parents would take us kids to the Drive-in. We would wear our pajamas and most of the time, we slept through the last part of the movie. I remember seeing Jungle Book and Snow White as a kid. Good times, really bad food at the snack bar though.

Thanks for reading and for commenting.