Useless but Fun Facts about Drive-in Movies
Here are some totally useless, but certainly fun facts about drive-ins, their history and the culture that surrounds them.
- The first drive-in theatre was opened in Camden, New Jersey in June of 1933. Surprisingly, it never turned a profit and it was sold three years later and the new owner took down the equipment and moved it to a new location.
- The second drive-in to open was Shankweiler's Drive-in opened in Orefield, PA in 1934. Amazingly, it is still open today and is the oldest operating drive-in theater in the world.
- Above is the oldest, now how about the newest? That would be the Coyote Drive-in located in Lewisville, TX. It, along with 2 other drive-ins, was opened last year in 2016.
- The most popular name for currently operating drive-in theaters is 'Starlite Drive-in'. There are currently 10 drive-ins in the United States named the Starlite Drive-in (including those that spell it Starlight). So if you are looking to visit the Starlite Drive-in and you are looking at their website, make sure you are looking at the correct location. The runner-up name is 'Skyview' including its several spellings of "Sky View", "Sky Vu", "Skyview", "Sky-Vu" and "Sky-View".
- Currently, New York has the most operating drive-ins of any state with 28. A surprising fact since the drive-ins in New York are only open seasonally due to the cold winters. Most people guess there are more operating drive-ins in California, Texas or Florida. But the fact that the drive-in theater was invented in nearby New Jersey probably helps. Which is why the number 2 state is probably no surprise as it is Pennsylvania with 27. Ohio is third with 24, Indiana is 4th with 19 and Texas and California are tied at 5th with 17 each.
- The largest operating drive-in in the United States, measured by car capacity, of which we are aware, is the Ford Wyoming Drive-in in Dearborn, MI. It can hold around 3000 cars. And surprisingly, the Ford Wyoming is open year round. It can get awful cold in Michigan in the winter, but the drive-in offers in car heaters to keep you warm.
- The Ford Wyoming is also the northern most drive-in that is open year round.
- The largest operating drive-in theater in the United States, measured by number of screens, is the Swap Shop Drive-in located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It has 14 screens and is open year round.
- We talked about the largest, what about the smallest? The smallest drive-in in operation in the world is the Jericho Drive-in located in Jericho, Queensland, Australia. It only holds 36 cars. Yes, that is correct, 36. The smallest drive-in in the United States is the Spud Drive-in in Driggs, ID. It can hold around 75 cars.
- Most drive-in theaters are owned by individual owners or family ownership. However, there are a handful of drive-in theater chains with the Westwind chain being the largest. They currently operate seven drive-in theaters in three states (California, Arizona and Nevada).
- Currently, most drive-ins use FM Radio to broadcast the sound for the movies. And before that, most people remember the old car stand speakers you could place on your window. But before those became the standard in the 1940’s, different drive-ins experimented with ways to broadcast the sound including placing large speakers behind the screen. The problem with this approach was as anticipated. It was really loud in the front rows and not loud enough in the back rows.
- The cost of the new digital projectors that drive-in operators must purchase to show today’s first run movies average about $60,000 per screen. This has created an undue hardship on smaller theater owners.
- In the past, almost all drive-ins allowed dogs, open fires and grilling. However, many liability insurance companies have required drive-ins to stop all of these practices in order to obtain liability insurance.
- There are still a large number of drive-ins that only accept cash which is highly unusual in today’s electronically connected world where credit and debit cards account for almost 70% of all retail transactions.
- While the United States has by far the largest number of drive-ins still in operation (about 325), other have drive-ins a well. Canada has the second largest population of operating drive-ins with about 50. Australia is third with about 15. We have them all listed in our database if you want to check them out. There are also a few scattered throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. We are working on cataloging them as well.