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August 6, 1932 – A patent request is made for the drive-in theater

first drive-in movie theater
The first drive-in movie theater, located in Camden, NJ

On this day in 1932, Richard Hollingshead Jr. applied for a patent for the drive in movie theater. How he came up with his invention is a fairly interesting story, it goes something like this. Hollingshead’s mother was supposedly a rather large woman who complained about sitting in uncomfortable movie theater chairs. To appease his mother, he explored methods of improving the movie going experience. In 1928, he began to experiment with a Kodak movie projector to display films on a bed sheet nailed between two trees on the family property in Camden, NJ. Realizing moving furniture inside and out of the home didn’t make for a fun chore, he instead pulled the family car in front of the makeshift screen, and voila: he had a drive-in theater. Though his mom could now comfortably watch movies from the luxurious bench seat of their sedan, he didn’t stop there.

He eventually added ramps and raised the screen so more people in their cars could view the films. Realizing he had a profitable idea on his hands, Hollingshead applied for a patent on this day in 1932, which he received in May of 1933. Armed with proprietary rights, Hollingshead recruited three investors to start a movie theater company called Park-It Theaters, Inc.

Hollingshead

On June 6, 1933, they opened a 400 acre drive-in movie theater in Camden that featured a 40 foot by 50 foot screen and three 6 foot tall speakers. Admission cost $0.25 per automobile plus a quarter per person inside with a max rate of $1. He eventually sold that theater in 1935 to fund a second theater. Hollingshead eventually licensed the technology to Loews Drive-In Theaters, but had trouble collecting roylaties. He took Loews to court, but In 1950, with drive-in popularity booming, his own legal efforts resulted in the courts ruling Hollingshead’s patent invalid.

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