Ever since I was a young child, growing up with Hollywood movies flashing on the TV screen, it was always a dream of mine to give this drive-in experience a shot. Unfortunately, what with all of the commotion and the pandemic we have experienced these past few months – it has been a dream I was almost close to realizing.

Although drive-ins have been a huge hit in my country, Malaysia, very recently, the country’s strict no-traveling bans have dampened my hopes of ever being caught in a romantic embrace (just like all those super cliché Hollywood romance movies) – I realized, I was just a couple of states away. Nevertheless, drive-ins are such a novel idea that many of us almost have never heard much or seen it happening in nearby towns. It’s an outdated activity – but honestly, I adore the appeal of it.

How And When Did Drive-in Theatres Became A “Thing”?

It appears the story goes way back. Almost 88 years since the idea first came to life, auto-parts salesman, Richard Hollingshead, intelligently, came up with in-car entertainment for his mother, who was rather ‘oversized’ to fit in the tiny chairs lining the cinema. However, that would spark attention across the United States.

What he essentially started had already been a big hit among car-lovers nationwide, but only this time, they get to rope in their families – wives, mothers, children – to do yet another fun activity in the car. The first drive-in theatres opened quite sporadically in the state of New Jersey and from there – New York, Baltimore, and many other American states.

What begun across the Atlantic would inspire many nations all over the world, pretty soon, the English and Chinese would begin a chain of drive-in theatres for countrymen to enjoy and partake in. It has quickly become a love affair – and more than just for couples, families would enjoy Disney animated movies, Horror movies and even Action/Adventure-packed ones too. Nothing was too bland to enjoy!

The Evolution of Watching Under the Stars

Made intentionally for families to have another activity to enjoy together, drive-in theatres first sported old, classic Hollywood movies with no sound, back in the 1930s. However, as time passed by and technology started to evolve, men and women became more intelligent to adapt to the current needs of the community. They developed in-car speakers to provide a more intimate setting for couples and families within their personal car to have control over how they hear the movie being played on the big screen just 3 yards away.

Drive-in operators also provided food in the movie ticket, so if you paid the fee (per head), you’d get your pick of the food you like! When drive-ins were a relatively new event, it was uncommon to sit confined in the car alone – people socialized and many laid on the top of the car to (quite literally) be under the stars, watching the movies.

Nowadays, however, many prefer to stay enclosed within the car’s confinement as it is a more intimate and personal experience. What made this even better was the fact that you get to wear whatever you liked, and you control how you hear the movie – whether you wanted it louder or softer at specific scenes. Honestly, that gives me so much comfort when it comes to Horror movies.

Sounds amazing, right? Turns out drive-in theatres had their fair share of setbacks and downturns too.

Turns outlands are quite costly. Matter, in fact, they’re the number one reason drive-ins fail and run out of business. More often than not, profits do not cover the operating and expense costs of running this business. That was the reason many drive-ins closed up during the 1940s to make way for more construction and development. It was only in the 1950s that drive-ins were successful – with over 4,063 outlets in the United States alone!

My Takeaway…

In conclusion, I believe drive-ins are a great activity and way to bond and spend more time with beloved ones, the more the better sometimes! It’s not just fun, it’s also relaxing and takes your mind off things. I know fewer greater joys but to watch my favorite movies with some of my favorite people right under the stars is definitely on the list.

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