33¢ Drive-in Movies
Celebrate the Century – 1950s
Issue Date: May 26, 1999
City: Springfield, MA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
Before the drive-in theater became popular in the 1950s, seeing a film was not usually a family activity. Children attended a matinee during the day, while adults got dressed up to go to the theater at night. During this time, the peak of the baby-boom years, families became more interested in doing things together.
Richard Hollingshead Jr., of New Jersey, is credited with inventing the drive-in theater in the 1930s. To test his idea, he mounted a movie projector on the hood of his car and nailed a screen to trees in his back yard. For sound, he placed a radio behind the screen. Ramps were built for cars’ front tires to park on, so viewers in the back rows were able to see clearly. In May of 1933, his invention was assigned U.S. patent number 1,909,537.
Hollingshead, along with three investors, began construction on the first drive-in theater in 1933. After three weeks and a $30,000 investment, it opened in June of that year. Admission prices were 25¢ for the car, and 25¢ per person, with no car to pay more than $1 total. Soon, drive-ins were springing up all over the country. One of the largest and most elaborate theaters was built in Copiague, New York. It had an indoor viewing area that was heated and air-conditioned, a playground, cafeteria, restaurant, and a shuttle train to cover the 28 acres.