As a teenager, growing up in the 70’s, the local drive-in theatre was a summer time all night extravaganza of marginal and mediocre movies. I remember seeing such classics as “Dawn of the Dead” where zombies took over the earth, and “The Song Remains the Same”, a Led Zeppelin movie and “Dead Men don’t Wear Plaid”.
I did some research about drive-in theatres and found that the original idea of the “drive-in” was to appeal to the non-movie going public. They were targeting folks who perhaps disliked dressing up — “Leave Your Girdle at Home” was one ad slogan — or had physical problems, or didn’t want to leave the kids with baby-sitters or were smokers or drinkers or had “a fear of contagious diseases picked up in any sort of enclosed buildings.”
The first outdoor movie theatre was in Camden, N.J.
The second was in what is now Rancho Park, an area in Los Angeles California.
The early drive-in theatres had “sole audio systems” which consisted of “a large speaker on top of the screen”.
Noise complaints ensued.
The problem was solved by spreading out the sound via 460 smaller outdoor speakers, each arranged so “that the sound enters a car via the radiator.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that RCA invented in-car systems.
The outdoor theaters reached the zenith of their popularity during the suburban boom of the 1950s. Piling the kids in the car made for a cheap family night out, and drive-ins were a favorite hangout for teens who’d recently gotten driver’s licenses.
The activities of the teenagers prompted another nickname for the theaters — “passion pits.”