Remembering the Drive-In Theater

| June 2006

The first opened 73 years ago. Folks loved it.

At one time, drive-in theaters could be found across the nation, doing business like gangbusters. How times have changed. Nowadays, they are so few and far between, they should be on an endangered species list.

Back in the 1940s and '50s, however, folks could drive into them at dusk, watch two or three movies, short subjects, previews and commercials for local businesses. If a family was lucky, they got home before dawn.

It wasn't always like that. When the world's first drive-in theater opened on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, N.J., on June 6, 1933, the entire show lasted less than two hours. And there were three shows, at 8, 9:30 and 11 p.m.

'They showed abridged versions of the movies,' said Miriam Favorite, librarian of the Camden Country Historical Society. 'All of the dull or uninteresting parts were omitted so they could have three shows nightly.'

'Wife Beware,' starring Adolph Menjou, was the first film ever shown in a drive-in theater. Each customer paid 25 cents. It was a dollar for a family. By 1933 standards, those were high prices.

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