It was on this day, 75 years ago, that Richard Hollingshead Jr. opened his first drive-in theater in Camden, New Jersey. At its peak, there were nearly 5,000 drive-in movie theaters across the country. In the post-WWII period, the drive-in represented both the emergence of the teenage leisure class and our country's strong identification with the automobile. Also, petting. Though there are a few drive-ins left, they represent a novelty more than a primary destination for cinematic appreciation. This saddens us, because the idea of a movie you can enjoy from the confines of your personal auto appeals to us in many, many ways. See below for the top seven reasons we miss the drive-in theater.
7. Personal Space
As much as we love movies, modern theaters have become solemn sanctuaries where anything above a whisper draws a swift rebuke from fellow movie-watchers. Making fun of the movies we watch is a not only a privilege, it's our right as Americans. At the drive-in you're welcome to hold court in your Imperial, discussing the qualities of Annette Funicello's bust without having to go all sotto voce. And if that uppity bitch in the Tempest doesn't like it, she can roll up her freaking windows.
6. It Was A Mini Car Show
Before there was the Wal-Mart parking lot, suburban kids could convene their nifty rides (or their father's nifty rides) and have a mini car show. It was a place to show off their cherry mag wheels, insane FM radio with "four speakers" and wood-grain dash. It's so much classier than doing FWD burnouts outside an Arby's.
5. Free Parking
The worst part of going to a the modern megaplex is the necessity of parking 6,000 minivans in a cramped parking garage they charge you $5 to use on top of the inflated ticket price. You have to get there early in order to avoid the long lines and then rush from the theater so it doesn't take you three hours to get out of the garage. The beauty of the drive-in is that it's already a parking lot. Pay for the movie and parking is free, or the other way around.
4. B Movies
Lacking a good method of home distribution, movies couldn't go straight to DVD in an attempt to make up the production costs. Instead, they went to the drive-in theater. That meant you could see films like Creature From The Black Lagoon and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers on the big screen, where they belong. Try finding any of the Leprechaun sequels at your local Cinemark.
3. Free Movies
If you try to sneak into movies these days, you're going to have to contend with security systems and worse, the indignity of being questioned by a squeaky-voiced teenager with a flashlight hoping to use your minor infraction as a way to exhaust his blend of sexual frustration and Accutane-fueled paranoia. In the good old times, you could just throw a couple of other kids in the spacious trunk of your dad's Galaxie 500 and get a half-priced ticket.
The old concession stands were palaces of greasy confections, including not just popcorn and boxed-candy, but hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers, french fries and cotton candy. And there was an intermission so you could actually enjoy it, as opposed to missing the best part of the movie ("Dude, you missed some total side boob"). They no longer show videos of dancing chili dogs because, were you to leave the theatre, you wouldn't be able to get a chili dog, dancing or not.
1. Semi-Public Sex
There's something unsavory about kids doing god-knows what in a stadium-theater setting. If our experiences are any guide, teenage hanky-panky is sloppy, brief and elbowy. No one wants to see that. On the other hand, if you're a teenager, there's perhaps too much performance anxiety when cramped in next to an obese family of six. But put that family in a Country Squire, separated by a few feet and a thin pane of glass, and it's both exciting and socially permissible. This way Bobby Jenkers knew you were fogging up the windows with Becky, but didn't hear the embarrassing squeal when you discovered that it wasn't just tissue paper under her brassiere. Yoinks!
[Source: Wired, Photo: Getty Images]