Car Culture

Welcome to Leon’s Transmission’s Car Culture column! This month we will look at Drive-in theatres. The first drive-in theatre was opened Tuesday, June 6th, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was $.25 cents per car plus $.25 cents per person. The Drive-in was the creation of Richard Hollingshead. He worked at his dad’s “Whiz Auto Products” store. Richard had a hankering to invent something that combined two of his favorite interests: cars and movies. Originally, sound was provided by large speakers mounted around the parking area. Later, in the 1940’s RCA developed smaller speakers that would hang on your car window.

Further inventions were a clip that you would attach to your car antenna allowing sound to play through your car radio. This design accounted for many dead batteries at the end of the movie, and no doubt, a good excuse for teenagers to tell their parents as to why they were late. Soon the drive-in movie theater nickname “Passion Pit” was born! The 1950’s were the height of the drive-in’s popularity. Families could pack the car with kids in pajamas and mom didn’t need to get all dressed up, to enjoy a night out. The 1970’s saw the decline of the drive-in. Many became swap meets while others were torn down. The Automobile Club reported only 19 drive-ins in California showing movies in 2011. Many of us have fond memories of the neon-lit “Van Nuys Drive-in”, “The Reseda Drive-in”, and the “Winnetka 4 Drive-in”, located in Chatsworth.

See this beautifully restored drive-in speaker and more car artifacts at the Leon’s Transmission “Car Corner” display at the Murphy Auto Museum, located at 2230 Statham Blvd, Oxnard.

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