How Well Do You Remember Drive-In Culture?

Olivia Cantor

At the center of the drive-in culture is what kind of Industrial Revolution “machine”?

The emergence of the automobile changed many things in American culture. This happened during the early parts of the 20th century.

The term "drive-in” always invokes this kind of establishment. What is it?

The drive-in culture actually encompasses many establishments such as banks, restaurants, and even chapels. But the drive-in theater is the most recognizable establishment in this group.

In which US state was the first drive-in recognized?

The widely recognized beginnings of the first American drive-in are rooted in New Jersey, specifically in Camden. But other historians also point to earlier “partial prototypes” being established in other parts of North America.

What is essentially the concept of a drive-in theater?

Outdoor movie screenings were not a new concept when the drive-in theater was invented. But the drive-in narrowed it down to using a car as part of the outdoor screening experience.

The success of drive-in culture owed much to the success of this mass-produced affordable car. What was it?

Henry Ford’s revolutionary ford Model T made cars affordable to the general public. This meant that many Americans could now own one, or two, or three!

Originally, how many movies could you watch at a drive-in theater?

Due to the logistics of the set-up, the early drive-in theater could only show one movie in a few days or an entire week, depending on its movie rental contract with producers.

With the advent of the car came the advent of this passage system, which also helped the drive-in culture boom. What was this system?

Due to the development of the Interstate Highway System, roads greatly improved in America. This coincided with the boom of the automobiles.

In which decade was the first drive-in theater born?

It was during the 1930s when the concept for the drive-in theater was patented. It was held by businessman-inventor Richard Hollingshead Jr.

Where did drive-in inventor Richard Hollingshead Jr. try creating many experiments that eventually led to his greatest invention?

Hollingshead used his own house to test several parts of the drive-in concept.

What brand of movie projector did drive-in inventor Hollingshead Jr. use for his project?

Kodak held the early monopoly of film technology in the early 20th century. Thus, a Kodak projector was used for this experimental project.

The earliest drive-in setup consisted of an outdoor screen. But where were the speakers placed?

The early set-up had a huge speaker planted near the screen.

What aspect of the drive-in viewing experience did Hollingston Jr. made sure of, before opening his establishment?

Since patrons would be sitting inside their cars to watch the film, Hollingston had to make sure all the cars had a good vantage point of the screen wherever they might be parked.

What did Hollingston Jr. install in his first drive-in theater to ensure that cars’ occupants could view the film screen properly?

Several parts of the land where the drive-in was had to have ramps, for unobstructed viewing.

The first patented drive-in theater in New Jersey showed the “foreign film” entitled "Wives Beware!" Where was this film originally from?

"Wives Beware!" was originally entitled "Two White Arms." This British comedy was released in 1932.

What was the first major appeal of the drive-in theater concept for patrons?

To watch a movie in the comfort of your car was a novelty for early drive-in theater patrons.

True or false: The first drive-in theater’s primary target market was families.

Drive-ins were initially designed to have something for the entire family. That was the intended demographic.

The first patrons of the drive-in theater culture were called what?

Ozoners was the term for drive-in movie patrons. Breathing fresh air while watching a film was unique indeed.

Which popular movie musical glorified the drive-in theater culture of the ‘50s?

The movie musical, "Grease," was set in the ‘50s, so, of course, the drive-in theater had to be there.

Movie patrons on the heavier side liked the drive-in theater concept. Why is that?

It was reported that the drive-in inventor’s mother was an inspiration to have heavier-set people like her go watch a movie. Back then, theaters had smaller cramped rows and seats, not friendly to larger people.

Since it’s an outdoor cinema viewing experience, what did Hollingshead Jr. do to “block” outsiders from seeing the outdoor screen?

Hollingston had tall trees planted all around the drive-in so as to block the screen. Smart and eco-friendly!

Since the earliest drive-ins broadcast the sound very loudly, what happened to the mostly suburban areas where they were located?

Residents complained of noise pollution, forcing drive-in owners to renovate this portion of their business.

Usually, what time of day did the early drive-ins show their films?

Since it’s an outdoor screening, all film screenings were scheduled at night.

Since families could bring small children in the back seat of their cars, this “informal industry” suffered. What industry is this?

Babysitters reportedly complained that they no longer had work since parents could bring their children to the drive-in where they could sit or sleep in the backseat while they watched a movie.

It was obvious that the one-source speaker wasn’t working for drive-ins. What sound innovation came next?

Speakers mounted on poles were found beside the parking slots of cars. That way the sound was broken down into smaller units closer to the audience.

Teenagers of the 1950s discovered the drive-in as a great place to do this activity.

Drive-in theaters provided great date venues for teens back then.

Drive-ins got a notorious reputation when patrons started to make out or have sex inside the parked cars! What did the media call this “phenomenon”?

The passion pit is what people termed drive-ins when teens started doing other things there during the 1950s.

What’s a drive-in theater without this other kind of establishment?

A food concessionaire is also found inside a drive-in, where snacks could be bought.

Aside from watching from the comforts of their car, what activity did drive-in patrons enjoy doing there?

Patrons could freely sit on their car hoods and smoke cigarettes while watching a film. Some even drank beers.

Which generation is credited with helping the drive-in concept boom, especially after World War II?

Baby Boomers

Next to movies, drive-ins also offered snacks. What do you call the servers who delivered the food to the customers’ cars?

Carhops usually wore roller skates and went to the cars to take orders and deliver them.

When the standing speakers didn’t really fly, what was the next audio innovation for drive-ins?

Smaller speakers could be hung inside each car window, and patrons could even control the sound volume.

Aside from speakers hanging on the car windows, what food innovation was later hung in windows?

Food trays were later adopted to have them clamped on car windows. This innovation is said to have started in a Chicago drive-in.

What kind of flashy lights were used to attract patrons to “drive in” the drive-ins?

Did you know all neon signs aren't made from neon gas? Only the color red is made from actual neon gas. The rest are various other gases that produce colors ranging from blue to green to purple and beyond.

What final audio innovation was applied to the drive-in theater system?

Someone finally thought of broadcasting the film’s soundtrack over low radio frequencies that could be picked up by the cars’ built-in radios.

In what other country did the drive-in boom during the 1950s era?

Australia also got the drive-in craze early on.

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About This Quiz

The drive-in culture is as American as apple pie and baseball. You think you can challenge yourself to see if you’ve got enough of that vintage Americana knowledge within you? Then open up this quiz and hop in -- pun intended!

The drive-in culture was ushered into the American scene during World War II. As it started to boom, the culture also changed drastically due to the effects of this war. But after the war, the scene was another story -- a more nostalgic one.

Soldiers soon came back home, went back to living their lives and working on their jobs, and started having families of their own. Of course, American pop culture started entertaining them, and American culture also started developing around them. Intersect these developments on the homefront with technological innovations reaped from the Industrial Revolution and you get newer forms of living life, experiencing life, participating in life, and enjoying life.

The drive-in culture was one such development that Americans enjoyed experiencing. During its heyday in the 1940s and ‘50s, around 4,000 drive-in theaters existed all over the country. While the numbers have dwindled drastically, some of them still exist today.

So, you think you can hop on in to challenge yourself with this fun drive-in quiz? Then open it up and drive on down the road!

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