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A movie experience

In the small town of Camden, New Jersey in the late 1920’s a young man called Richard Hollingshead decided to find a way of combining his two passions in his life : Automobiles and movies.

As an experiment, Richard nailed a screen to several trees in his backyard and projected images onto it from a 1928 Kodak projector placed on the hood bonnet of his car.

On May 16 1933 – and after much development – the first US-drive in movie theatre opened, the cost per car and per person being 25 cents. At the height of their popularity there were over 4,000 drive-ins across the USA. However, the introduction of cable TV, VHS and now the DVD player has reduced this number to just 25.

Highway 21 Drive in

Two still exist in South Carolina, and Leigh & I went to the one in Beaufort last night – The Highway 21 Drive-in, to watch the new Superman movie. But as they have two screens (and they are currently expanding to have a third), the new Pirate of the Carabbean film was showing for the first time last night, and the staff were getting in the mood.

“Ahoy there m’hearties!” said the guy at the ticket booth as well rolled up. “Shiver me timbers!” I instantly replied back at him – suprised at my own instant ability to also get in the mood.

The hot-dog seller was also wearing a pirates hat, skull and crossbone flags hung on the concessions stand – they were all really getting into it, and I started snapping away with camera at the jolly sight.

Highway 21 Drive in

This got us noticed by the staff – and before we knew it, a nice chap by the name of Don invited us up to one of the projections rooms and gave us a run through of the equipment.

He also told us that -yes – they were expanding, because over the past year, the numbers of people going to drive-ins are on their way UP again for the first time in years.

And it was fun – loads of fun. We bought hot dogs, drinks and popcorn, parked the TankMobile® in reverse, so that we could sit in the back instead, tuned the radio into the FM frequency that they were broadcasting the movie in and settled into watch.

Highway 21 Drive in

And it’s a great classic American experience and one that I loved. Even when we forget to turn our lights off, and a 6 foot tall bruiser of a guy with tattoos on his arms that were as thick as my legs shouted “TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF!” at me as we were blinding the whole row of cars behind us. Oops…

18 responses to “A movie experience”

  1. Roland says:

    Don’t Get Stranded at the Drive in, old John Travolta n that classic Grease. !

  2. geofftech says:

    “Stranded at the drive in… branded a fool… what will they say..? Monday at school”

    I seem to recall a dancing soda, and a hot dog in the background of that scene. Apparantly the producers of did try to synchronise that clip with the tune, with little success.

    Anyway, drive in movie theatres are cool. Fact.

  3. Paul says:

    I went to a drive in cinema when I was in the States back in ’97. I couldn’t see the attraction personally. Watching Jurassic Park 2 surrounded by mozzies …. oh what fun!

  4. Mikey says:

    You gotta love that crazy french captain. I guess you watched the match

  5. Chz says:

    Heh, a friend of mine actually owns a drive-in theatre up in Canada. We reserve the right to mock the locals, since most of them were conceived there. 🙂

  6. David says:

    You travelled a bit of a way, 50 miles. Well I suppose thats only about an hour away. I have always wanted to do that.
    Did any planes from the airfield next to it fly over?

  7. Ross says:

    So Geoff, I assume by tuning in to the soundtrack in FM, you actually get to listen to it in Stereo? If so, by parking in reverse to the screen, did the L-R and R-L sound effects end up “travelling” in the wrong direction? 😉

  8. geofftech says:

    Oh, and I added a cool new picture to my Gallery today:

    http://www.geofftech.co.uk/gallery/

  9. geofftech says:

    We’d actually spent the day out in Savannah (Georgia), and popped into the drive-in on the way home…

    … reverse stereo affect? I didn’t think that! Superman flying left to right across the screen whilst hearing him go from right to left! lol…

  10. Joan says:

    I know one of the fellows involved in running that drive in. I always told him he should have a night “free if you were conceived at a drive in” but that would be a little difficult to prove. Heheh.

  11. geofftech says:

    The guy selling us tickets (blue bandana) did give us a hard time about that as well. “Just the two of ya? I know what YOU’RE here for! Ha ha haa!”, but honest – we didn’t.

  12. Tardis Tina says:

    Yes, but was the film any good?

  13. Fimb says:

    How long did it take to drive to Savannah? Thats where the friend we’re hoping to visit lives 🙂

    And Grease has had me always wanting to go to a drive in too!

  14. Brent says:

    Really only 25 left in the US?? Where did you find this number? Just curious b/c I know there’s 3 in Cleveland, Ohio alone.

    You didn’t get a double feature the night you went? Most drive-in’s I’ve been to show double features. Last one I went to I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Johnny Depp one) and Batman Returns. Good times 🙂

  15. Chz says:

    I hadn’t paid attention to that number – I’m pretty sure there are 25 Drive-Ins in *Canada*. And yes, the standard at my buddy’s theatre is a double feature; with a “Dusk ‘Til Dawn” (4 movies) on long weekends.

  16. Tim says:

    “…tuned the radio into the FM frequency that they were broadcasting the movie in…”

    That is complete and utter genius!

  17. Ciaran Byrne says:

    You see Geoff, you are losing your Britishness alrady. When the bloke behind the ramp said “Ahoy there me hearties!”, any Englishman worth his salt would have said “Look mate, just fuck off and give us the tickets will ya, for fucks sake”. You are too happy. You are turning into a yank.

  18. Captain Bill says:

    Geoff, I’m the guy from the ticket window and I am also the guy who Joan was referring to in line #10, we work together.
    Your information about how many Drive-Ins there are is really bad. Go to Driveins.com, there you will see that there
    are about 450 left in the US. And as a side note about the two here in South Carolina, we both have two screens, but
    ours in Beaufort is BIGGER, you know side really does count.

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