Drive-in Movie Theaters
Is there anything more American than
the "drive-in"? The "drive-in" or
"drive-thru" is part of America's twentieth century culture; and no
"drive-in" in more classically American than the drive-in movie
theater. But for years, the number of drive-in theaters in the USA has
falling. How long will they last?
They were a
cultural icon, a classic product of
twentieth century lifestyle; movie theaters where you just drove up,
paid a few
parked facing the screen, relaxed in your car, and waited
for the movie to begin.
In the mid fifties, when
drive-in theaters were at their most popular, there were over 5000 of
spread all across the USA. It was the age of the American Dream, of
and the young Elvis Presley, a time before anyone had heard of Vietnam,
inner cities or color TV.
The "automobile" was
king, a symbol of the new-found freedoms of the great American middle
The American dream was to live in a nice house in a friendly suburb,
large comfortable automobile or two parked in the driveway;
the automobile was there to be used.
Drive-in movie theaters
originated in the eastern USA in the 1930's; in those days the quality
movies was not terribly polished, so people tended not to worry about
quality sound and images that flickered
on the vast outdoor
screens in front of them. Often, it wasn't much better in indoor movie
theaters. Moreover the drive-ins had advantages that indoor theaters
have; you didn't get disturbed by the person next to you, and you could
you pleased. In those days, people dressed up to go to the movies in
there was no dressing up for drive-ins.
From the end of the Second World
War, until the mid sixties, drive-ins lived their glory years. They got
and smarter, and the sound quality improved
markedly. In the
early years, the sound had come from huge loudspeakers placed below the
by the fifties, the system of individual sound for each car had become
norm, and all you had to do was to roll down the window and hook the
loudspeaker over it. If there were too many mosquitos
even pull the speaker right into the car, and roll the window up again.
but so was American society. By 1965, the American Dream was beginning
some cracks. Once color television arrived, the writing was on the wall
thousands of U.S. movie-theaters, both drive-ins and indoor cinemas.
escalating crime rate
fears of violence, more and more
Americans decided that it was better not to go out in the evening at
also suffering from commercial pressures; some went out of business,
compete with the flexibility and comfort of new suburban multiplex
cinemas - but many profitable theaters closed too. As towns and cities
expanded, large suburban sites became valuable real
few owners could resist multi-million dollar offers to sell out to
chains or business corporations. Over 1,000 drive-ins closed during the
over 2,000 followed in the next decade; by the time 1990 arrived, there
less than 1,000 drive-in screens across the USA, and few people thought
there would be any left at all by the end of the century.
things have not happened
that way. Today, in 2009, there are still almost 500 drive-in theaters
in the USA; only about 100
screens disappeared in the 1990's, and new
now appearing, particularly in states where suburban real estate values
too far. Ohio, for
instance, still has almost over 30
learned to market their assets
more effectively; instead of
remaining empty during the day time, theater parking
used for flea markets
, open air
sales, and other activities.
come to the
drive-in too; the modern drive-in uses a low-frequency FM radio sound
and viewers simply tune their car radio to the right channel, and
listen to the
soundtrack using their own hi-fi system. Given the quality of the sound
in some cars these days, there is a new breed
of drive-in theater
fans who come along to enjoy their own in-car sound systems. Watching
recent movie Twister
with the advantage of a
in-car hi-fi was, it is said, quite an experience - especially on a
with lightening flashing in the distance!
movie-goers, however, come
along just for the fun, or the nostalgia, of watching a movie in a
sort of environment, under a star-lit sky, and in the comfort of their
They can smoke if they want to, drink coffee, or order a pizza or a
food and drink are available in today's drive-ins, providing another
indoor theaters cannot offer... and that too is helping drive-ins to
It is still possible to visit a drive-in movie theater in the USA,
but how long will they last? Watching a move from the
back of a 1962 Cadillac convertible was one thing; doing so from the
back of a Honda Civic is not the same experience !
dollar - smog: a mixture
of smoke and fog,
pollution - driveway: access to
house - flicker: jump around
- improve: get better
- mosquito: insect that
stings - rate: level - multiplex:
several screens - real
property - escalate: rise, go up
- asset: something
that is positive - parking
park - flea
people sell old
things they don't want - breed:
for the Firefox
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DRIVE IN MOVIE THEATERS
Read the article and decide if these statements are true or false:
justify your answer by quoting from the text.
drive-in movie theater was invented before color television
People liked the
original drive-ins because the quality of the pictures was so good.
3. In the 1930's people usually put on smart clothes if they
went to the movies in town.
4. The original drive-ins had individual loud-speaker systems
for each car.
5. The rise in street
crime contributed to the falling fortunes of drive-in movie theaters.
6. The owners of many drive-in movie theaters opened
supermarkets in their place.
7. The 1970's were the worst decade in the history of
drive-in movie theaters.
8. Today, drive-in
movie theaters tend to be used for other things during daylight hours.