The Drive-In: One of America's greatest and most iconic cultural features. In the golden age of the United States, nearly every town had its very own drive-in. A drive-in theater is a structure designed to show movies on a big screen, not in a theater, but rather outside so that the customers could drive up to a parking spot facing the screen, tune into the radio, and watch the movie from their car. Pretty cool.
When was the first drive-in cinema built? Well, according to Drive-In Theater, it was built way back almost 100 years ago in 1933, by a man who went by the name of Richard M. Hollingshead. Mr. Hollingshead was the first one to pioneer the idea of watching a movie on a big screen without having to leave your car. The idea was a massive hit, and by the 1950s the drive-in had exploded, sweeping the nation by storm.
One of the largest drive-ins was situated on 28 acres of land in New York, according to Drive-In Theater, and it had parking around the main outdoor screen for 2,500 cars. Talk about absolutely massive! There was a cafeteria, playgrounds, even an indoor screen. Since that time, though, the drive-in has seen as equally intense of a disappearance. Finding an operational drive-in theatre is a rare thing these days. Finding abandoned ones, though, is much easier, so let's take a look at 20 photos of abandoned drive-in theaters that were abandoned.
20 Locked Up And Closed Forever
The pun here is, as I often will say, very most definitely intended. This drive-in theatre, the Keysville drive-in theatre, more specifically, has been locked up and closed forever, abandoned and forgotten, left behind to fade into the memory of time alone, and no one else's.
So, you might say in so many words, that they lost the keys to the theatre. There it is, there's the pun. But, in all honesty, this doesn't look like it was ever much of a cool theatre, with one of the drabbest signs in our lineup.
19 Mostly Gone In LA
Los Angeles is about as close as you can get to Hollywood, and so it comes as no surprise that this drive-in theatre in L.A. looks like it at one point was one pretty fabulous establishment.
With a really big screen and what was once a beautiful mural depicting the name of the theatre in an eye-catching way, it had to have been pretty posh. Of course, nowadays, it is mostly gone left to fade and fall apart, until one day someone decides to tear it down and build a strip mall.
18 No Showings Today, Or Any Day
This massive screen is in pretty good shape, considering the state of most everything below it in the foreground. There are junk and scrap littering the grass all around, and the cars tucked directly underneath the screen are looking worse for wear, and so are the trailers.
With all that dereliction, it seems like the screen would be in a bit worse shape, maybe a little rust staining, perhaps a few panels missing. But instead, there's just pristine corrugated metal. Maybe it's time to reopen it.
17 Old Cars At The Bombay Beach Drive-In
It's rather unusual to see so many abandoned cars littering the parking area of this old abandoned drive-in. While hundreds of thousands of cars have likely graced the Bombay Beach Drive-In over the years, like all of the drive-ins around the country, a theatre just really isn't the place that people store cars long term.
Alas, that seems to be what's happened here, where all kinds of abandoned cars have been left to rot along with the theatre itself. There are some really cool models here, and it isn't too hard to imagine what this scene would have looked like if all of them were brand new.
16 Pick A Different Movie Showing
The Chief Drive-In Theatre, with a massive stand-alone screen backed by a thick hedge of overgrown brambles. This was probably at one point one of the most popular places in town, the place for all the families, kids, and couples to go, especially on weekends.
Of course, nowadays things are quite a bit different. This screen is all that remains of those bustling days, and it won't be long before the paint completely fades, and the rust completely consumes, and this screen falls to the ground in rot.
15 Quick Stop At Hill-Top
The Hill-Top Drive-In Theatre was one of the few successful drive-ins that made it all the way through the huge crash around the '80s and kept in operation even through into the new century, before, according to cinematreasures.org, it closed in 2001.
That's a shame, really, because this drive-in had a very permanent support structure for the screen, this cement block wall, which held up the screen on the opposite side. Since its abandonment, it has fallen victim to vandals and disrepair.
14 Really Sinister Tonto Drive-In
With the lack of color, paired with the hollowed out and faded sign, along with the imposing gate barring all entry, this monochrome photo depicts quite a chilling scene, the really sinister Tonto Drive-In.
There's no screen in sight, the only evidence of what was once a full-fledged theater and entertainment for the whole family is that barren structure far in the background. Whether or not it was ever part of the original theater is unclear, but the empty shell is a mere parallel reflection of the joy that once was.
13 Senescent Scope Of View In New Jersey
Seeing a drive-in theatre from above is a pretty rare occurrence, one that you'd probably only be able to see from a small aircraft of some kind, perhaps from a jet. With the popularization of the drone, it seems like more and more though any photographer can get aerial shots like this one.
The senescent landscape is breathtaking and taking over the screen at the center of this quarter circle. This was a big theater in its day, clearly, with rows arranged for hundreds of cars to see the same movie.
12 All Broken Up
This old screen looks like it was part of a pretty massive drive-in theatre complex, though these days it's hard to tell that much of anything was here at all. With no more spots for cars and only desert scrubs, it seems all that's left is this massive metal sign.
And that's quickly decaying, too, with huge chunks of the corrugated metal having fallen off. If this screen were ever to be used again, it would need some serious repairs, along with some serious TLC. One can only hope that drive-ins will make a comeback.
11 Beverly In Dereliction
The Beverly Drive-In looks like it was a pretty incredible place to go to, back in the day. The infrastructure and architectural design looks like it was quite high class, very art deco chic in a way that only things from this era can have.
To this day, retro things like this prove to be a pretty valuable treasure, and any of these kinds of buildings and signs that are still running in this age are immensely popular. They just don't make things this beautiful anymore.
10 Creaky Broken Screen
This is a rather harrowing and sad look at a time that at one time was about as glowing, vibrant, lively, and beautiful as anything could ever be. Yet that's just the thing that this scene doesn't paint.
It paints quite the opposite scene, actually, one full of sadness, emptiness, a hollow sense of dereliction, abandonment, the death of something special. With an old car, all alone, watching a movie on a creaky broken screen, there's none of the jubilance that this era once held.
9 Drive-In Forever Forgotten
The Summit Drive-In Theatre is just the opposite of its namesake, nowadays, now that this drive-in is forever forgotten. It is long past its summit, and it has fallen down the steep hill of shutting it's doors and falling into disrepair, quickly on its way to being completely forgotten, entirely left behind to the sands of time.
Alas, many still treasure these echoes of the past, still tune in and listen to the sounds they still make, as broken down and abandoned relics fading with every day that passes.
8 Especially Beautiful View
The landscape here is virtually unbroken, an arid desert landscape with a beautiful brushing of green brush and scrub, all backset by a rich orange and red sunset, just after a storm has dissipated. To top it all off there's even a rainbow, cast in hues of deep crimson because of the deepening sunset.
The stark and rusty screen in ruins at the center of the frame really only gives this image that much more impact, along with the radio stands that are all knocked over amongst the weeds.
7 Forgotten And Broken
This old screen at one time was quite the premium one, though it seems pretty hard to imagine it in this state, with all kinds of panels missing, chipped and fading paint, and rust stains from the metal framework dissolving with the rigors of time.
Most drive-in theatre screens are quite simple, made of a metal structure and then covered with a massive rectangle of pieces of corrugated metal. But this one is premium, this one has a slight curve, and smooth painted panels, whether they are wood or smooth metal.
6 Georgia Girl Drive-In
The Georgia Girl Drive-In seems to have fallen on hard times and fallen into complete disrepair because of it. At least the landowner hasn't torn it down, because it's still a wonderful icon of a forgotten age, a time when these kind of neon lights were everywhere, where colors and art were of great importance.
Alas, these lights don't work, and they haven't for years, and the paint has faded, leaving behind a sad derelict ruin, haunted by ghosts of the past and intrepid explorers of the present.
5 Getting The Tickets
This old ticket booth looks like a giant butterfly landed on top and became the roof. So was the way that things were made back in the day when the artistic expression was a part of the industry, and it wasn't just all about cheaper, simpler, faster, and the highest possible profit margin.
This old ticket booth is kind of like a drive-thru window, you pull in, get your tickets, and you don't even have to leave your car. Which is pretty cool, actually, because if you never wanted to leave your car at all, you didn't have to.
4 Hidden Behind The Leaves
Over the many decades that this old screen has been standing the tests of time, it held up surprisingly well, with no signs of crumbling or decay, even the paint is still pretty brightly colored, hardly faded much.
The only thing is that the foliage around the screen has taken over in a pretty aggressive way, having overgrown the screen almost entirely. All the borders are edged in with vines and leaves, with vines overhanging the top and falling downwards. And underneath, too, the trees are growing tall, reaching up into the middle of the screen.
3 If Only It Were Still Functional
At one point this theatre was quite the luxurious estate. Just imagine these empty rows filled up with cars, row after row of gleaming classics from the '60s, freshly polished and brightly colored, some even brand new still, completely mint. The kinds of cars that would have shown up here would have been spectacular.
It'd be hard to watch the movie, even, for being so distracted by the beautiful cars neatly lined up in rows, as if they were part of a beautiful time-traveling car show. It's a shame theaters and cars aren't made like they used to be.
2 Just A Screen Is All That's Left
The screen of this old drive-in theatre is really all that's left of it. There's no evidence that there were any kinds of parking spaces or anything, beyond this giant screen that kind of looks like a blank billboard. In the daylight, it's easy to see that it's just corrugated metal.
But, at night, it's harder to tell in the darkness, and once the projector is fired on and the movie gets displayed onto it, it's almost impossible to tell, unless you're really close up on it. Of course, this screen won't be seeing any movies projected onto it, perhaps never again.
1 Killing Off The Magic Of Theatre
In 1980, the drive-in theatre saw a huge decline, a rapid fall from its heights. According to driveintheater.com, it was mostly due to the fact that Hollywood was closer to home than ever before, with rentable movies and in-home viewing options available more than ever.
People didn't want to go out to a theatre, no they'd rather stay at home. Which is, in a lot of ways, very understandable. But, with the demise of the drive-in theater, so was lost the magic of theatre, the beautiful and special excitement it holds and should always hold.
Sources: Drive-In Theater, Business Insider & Flickr