Eighty two years ago this month the first-ever Drive In movie theater was opened in Camden New Jersey. The cost – 25¢ per car, plus 25¢ per person, with no group paying more than $1. The idea spread like wildfire and after World War II, the rise of the automobile industry and the birth of all those baby boomers, they became an iconic symbol of American life.
During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the local drive in was the place to go for growing families and, of course, teenagers looking for a place to have a little private time on their dates. Even movies like “Grease” and “Twister” feature drive in movie theaters as a center for groups to gather and be entertained. In their heyday there were over 5,000 theaters across the country, mostly in small towns and independently owned.
Unfortunately the oil crisis of the 1970’s and the adoption of Daylight Savings Time (which forced theaters to show movies later, making it difficult for parents with young children) took their toll on the booming drive-in business and by early in this century, there were less than 500 theaters remaining including 88 Drive-In Theatre in Commerce City.
Perhaps, this slice of Americana is making a comeback. This month, Denver Mart CEO John Doyle is opening a 300,000 square foot drive-in theater in the pavilion parking lot of Denver Mart at 451 East 5th Avenue. This will be a state of the art theater with a 40 x 92ft screen projecting to 440 cars. They will use some new technology to allow the sound to be played directly on the car radio.
We think it’s time for a whole new generation to experience the simple joys of going to a drive-in movie theater. Whether with the kids or on a date, we’d love to have you drop by Gunther Toody’s for a pre-movie bite.