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After 1945 rising car ownership and suburban and rural population led to a boom in drive-in theaters, with hundreds being opened each year. More couples were reunited and having children, resulting in the Baby Boom, and more cars were being purchased following the end of wartime fuel rationing. By 1951, the number of drive-in movie theaters in the United States had increased from its 1947 total of 155 to 4,151.

That, as they say, was then. This, as they say, is now:

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  • ghostsniper March 1, 2020, 2:54 PM

    I have lots of good memories as a kid going to the Silver Springs Drive In theater on the Harrisburg Turnpike. They’d load all us kids up in the stationwagon, fill the big thermos with rootbeer, grab a bucket of the colonel on the way then, look out James Bond, here we come! They had a playground up close to the screen and us kids were allowed to run wild. Go down the slide upside down and look up and see JB kill OddJob with that million volt Fort Knox circuit. WoW!

  • jwm March 1, 2020, 3:21 PM

    We used to walk over to the La Habra Drive in, climb over the back wall and turn up all the nearby speakers. Then we’d sit up on the wall and watch the movie. We’d even go buy popcorn at the snack bar. Always had to be careful for the guy on the bicycle who’d chase us off, and turn the speakers back down. But as soon as he passed we’d be right back up there. Later when I had a car, well… Never did make out at the drive in, but did get very very drunk watching Night of the Living Dead.


  • MIKE GUENTER March 1, 2020, 3:27 PM

    Had a ’72 Chevy Kingwood Estate station wagon. With the back seat down, you could fit a full size mattress in the back. Good times, IYKWIM.

  • Lance de Boyle March 1, 2020, 3:35 PM

    Carol’s soft, cool cheeks. Warm lips. Spearmint breath. Dickie and his girl clutching in the back seat of my ’51 Chevy. Summer nights, sitting on the hood, leaning back against the front window. Passing beers back and forth with neighbor cars. Two week before Dickie and I head to Fort Jackson.

    Watching “A summer place.”

    Man, it hurts. nostos.

  • Anon March 1, 2020, 3:52 PM

    My son was conceived at a drive-in. I should have pulled out before the movie ended.

  • ambiguousfrog March 1, 2020, 4:40 PM

    I saw Airplane! and a couple of Cheech and Chong movies at the Hackensack Drive-In on Route 46 in N.J. On occasion they showed x-rated films which could be seen from the bridge coming over the Hackensack River into Little Ferry N.J. Entered by hopping over the exit or by a friends trunk.

  • Auntie Analogue March 1, 2020, 5:39 PM

    Years before they became the place to neck, pet, or do the actual deed, my Dad took the KidSicle™ me to see many a fine film at the drive-in. Our local drive-in was beside a saltwater bay whose adjacent salt marshes bred beaucoup balbos of mosquitoes, so that before each ride to the drive-in Dad bought one of those Pic mosquito repellent coil things that he erected atop the dashboard on the Pic’s tin base, then he ignited the end of the green curlicue and inside our car the Pic smoke rose lazily into an anti-mosquito haze. (Go here . . . : https://pic-corp.com/mosquito/ )

    During summer vacation a college friend and I saw a drive-in double feature. All through Willard we drank beer and made giddy mockery of that schlocky flick, because the TV trailers we’d seen had advertised it as a creepy thriller but it turned out to be about as scary as a cat food commercial. But following intermission, ten minutes into The Night of the Living Dead we went breathlessly silent, rapidly sobered up, and, except for frightfully frequent gasps and shrieks, we stayed silent until the closing credits – that one really spooked us! Despite all the beer we’d drunk during the first feature neither one, nor the other, of us dared, owing to the dread The Night of the Living Dead had terrified into us, to get out of the car to walk through the flickering darkness to the snack bar to have a pee, so we constrained our painfully swollen bladders through the twenty minutes’ drive to my friend’s home.

    It would be a safe bet that everyone of a certain age misses the drive-in. I know I sure miss it.

  • John the River March 1, 2020, 5:46 PM

    Studios are moving to stop distributing 35-millimeter film prints. Converting to digital is an expense many theaters in the fading drive-in industry can’t afford.

    (2013) In most of the country, drive-ins close for the winter. Some may not reopen this spring because of the high cost of digital conversion, said John Vincent Jr., the president of the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Assn. He declined to speculate on the number that may close.

  • jwm March 1, 2020, 6:27 PM

    @Auntie Analog:
    The first time I went to see Night of the Living Dead I had much the same experience. (wasn’t at the drive-in) My friends and I used to love to seek out cheap schlocky horror movies, and we expected this would be one of them. Indeed, for the first few minutes it seemed like it would be. We left the theater feeling like we’d been beat up. It is one great piece of low budget film making. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another. That one was so scary it wasn’t fun. I almost walked out. But I couldn’t.



  • Casey Klahn March 1, 2020, 7:45 PM

    Remember that hood bonnet thingy with the suction cups that would shield your front window from the rain? We had a LOT of rain where I grew up.

  • Gordon Scott March 2, 2020, 3:30 AM

    Don’t forget the 4-movie horror night, when they would have a nurse on duty in the snack bar to check your blood pressure!

    My dad bought the property that held the (closed) drive in in our town. When he sold it to a hotel developer, Joe Bob Briggs gave the transaction a big hiss in his column.

  • Gordon Scott March 2, 2020, 3:35 AM

    There is still one operating drive in in the Twin Cities metro, down from two a few years ago. It was built far enough east of St Paul that no one has developed near it. They do a pretty good business, in the summer. Of course, no one does drive in in Minnesota before May or after September.

  • Dr. Jay March 2, 2020, 3:35 AM

    As a teenager I worked at our local Drive-In and I can dispel any doubts you may have: your son was not the only son conceived at a Drive-In. Ars Gratia Artis!

  • boone March 2, 2020, 6:25 AM

    There are still 3 operating within 20 miles of my house. I guess we’re lucky. I take my kids whenever there’s something worth seeing.

  • Vanderleun March 2, 2020, 7:27 AM

    My gang had a $25 Hudson that we went in. It sat about eight or nine but we’d go to the Paradise Pines with only two couples in the back and front with two more and somebody’s kid brother in the trunk. I remember the Tamales from the snack stand to this day.

  • Anne Lee March 2, 2020, 7:55 AM

    We lived in West Texas for two years. Having lived in California for many years it was a real culture shift! The most surprising thing was the fly-in movie theater. It was closed but you could still see the runway and the extra wide parking slips. In the 1940’s and 50’s many people had private airplanes. The distances are vast and the roads long and empty– learning how to fly a small bird was easy and provided a big improvement to the quality of life out there. Texas is the state that still has the most drive ins open. I think they have eighteen still operating.

  • Sam L. March 2, 2020, 8:08 AM

    I went to one in my home town. Don’t remember any of the films I saw, but then my memory isn’t what it never was…

  • Anon March 2, 2020, 8:23 AM

    Dr. Jay
    Another time, another drive in another girl… We were doing it in the front seat, kinda awkward and being young and frisky we were doing it very eagerly and the car was rocking pretty good. Also being young and frisky we didn’t wait until dark. After the deed I sat up and right beside us was a car with to older adults and both were giving us the death stare. I remember two things from that incident: The movie was Dr. Zhivago and the girl was the one I should have married.

  • James ONeil March 2, 2020, 10:10 AM

    I remember taking a date to the drive in on my Lambretta motor scooter, parking it sideways, spreading a blanket in front with a couple of cushions and a thermos full of “lemonade”.

    & another time, car full, stopping for burgers after leaving the drive in, and telling the car hop; “That’s 6 burgers, 6 cokes and check what the couple in the trunk wants.”

    Gerard, your $25 Hudson; My first car was $25 Kaiser that, if I wasn’t careful shifting, would get stuck twix first & second gear requiring I turn off the engine, get out, open the hood and shift back to first with a two by four. I remember one time leaving the Orange Bowl, the folks in the cars behind were quite patient with me.

  • Patvann March 2, 2020, 11:12 AM

    We still have an operational one near me in San Jose.
    -Capitol Drive In.

  • downeasthillbilly March 2, 2020, 2:43 PM

    My parents took my sister and me to see a horror movie when we were 12 or so. They didn’t realize that the drive-in played porn after 11 pm. Movie ended. Credits rolled – right into a trailer for Eat, Drink and Make Mary. My mom spilled the popcorn trying to force our heads below eyeshot level. Udder failure.

    The drive-in was built in a hollow. There was a poor black neighborhood overlooking it that had a full view of the screen, but no sound. We paid $1 a carload to park in a man’s yard. Looking back I feel bad for those parents that tried to keep their kids on the right path.

  • downeasthillbilly March 2, 2020, 2:44 PM

    That was years later, just so’s ya know!

  • Zeta male pondscum March 2, 2020, 10:01 PM

    When i was barely old enough to talk we saw ET at a drive in with a cousin. Years later when i went on my first actual date, i could think of no place better than the drive in. Planet of the Apes remake was not perhaps the best choice. Later still i tried getting to the one near my parents house in Florida as often as they had anything i wanted to see. Just recently the one near me closed down. Ive spent the last three years saying I was going to go there. Promises promised.

  • Vince913 March 3, 2020, 1:33 AM

    Queenstown drive-in, Hyattsville Maryland. Got my first boobie squeeze in the front seat of my friends 72 Ford LTD. For some reason I don’t remember the movie, just the squeeze. Oh yeah, her name was Kim

  • Snakepit Kansas March 3, 2020, 4:18 AM

    Augusta Drive In in small town Kansas and Star Vu in near by El Dorado Kansas. Making out with a gal named Lisa while listening to Journey from the cassette deck. Killed the battery and the ’72 GTO would not start after the last movie. The drive-in manager ended up giving me a jump start.