On June 6, 1933 the first drive-in ever was opened in Camden by Richard Hollingshead, an auto-parts salesman for 25 cents per car. He was on a mission to see how many more activities could be done in vehicles. His experiment consisted of sticking his mother in a car and putting a projector on the hood and tying two sheets to trees in his yard. He then created a ramp system for cars to park at different heights so everyone could see the screen and patented his concept in May 1933 before putting it to business the next month with an investment of $30,000. When in-car speakers came out in the 1940s, the idea took off . Hollingshead kept the theater in Camden for only two years. In 1935, he sold the theater property and opened a drive-in in Union.
The drive-in's peak popularity came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with 4,000 drive-ins spread across the United States. At one time there were almost 50 drive-in movie venues in New Jersey. Unfortunately the price of land became the downfall for the industry.
In the 1940’s, a new drive-in, operated by Redstone Theatres opened near the Newark airport, with a capacity for 2,500 cars becoming the fourth largest drive-in in the United States. For one low price of as many people as you could squeeze in one car, you could take the whole family for a double feature movie at the Newark Drive-In. The drive in also had a concession stand with fast food service where many people socialized before the start of the show and during the Intermission.. When intermission came around which usually ran around 20 minutes between feature films, the screen was filled with snack commercials, the concession stand menu, previews of coming attractions, and another cartoon. It became a outing people looked forward too. For the teenager it had an even greater appeal other than the actual movie. It offered teens a place to meet and hang out and away from their parents especially with boyfriends or girlfriends.
Unfortunately the Newark Drive-In closed in 1991 due to declining patronage and the rerouting of Route 1&9. In 1992, National Amusements built and opened a large indoor multiplex theater, the All Jersey Multiplex Cinemas on the site. This was a common occurrence for many drive-in sites which closed.
Eventually the theatre went out of business as well and fell into disrepair.
It was demolished in March 2014.
Today, fewer than 500 drive-in theaters survive in the United States and all that remains of the Newark multiplex is the signage.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.