September 25, 2021

Thanks to COVID-19, movie theatres worldwide were shut down. While they were closed, southern Ontario saw the rebirth of the infamous drive-in.

The very first patented drive-in was located in New Jersey. It opened to the public on June 6, 1933, and was owned by a man named Richard Hollingshead. According to the New York Film Academy, the original reason Hollingshead created his drive-in, was because of small theatre sizes at the time. He felt that the going to the cinema, wasn’t something that was “fun for the whole family.”

Nowadays, theatre sizes have been significantly lowered due to COVID-19, in order to maintain proper social distancing guidelines. Hollingshead promoted his drive-in by appealing to families, and advertised it as somewhere where kids were welcomed, and where your level of comfort is your call. 

Following the success of Hollingshead’s drive-in, drive-ins seemed to be spreading like wild fires, as countless more were opened all over North America. By the 1950s, there were over 4,000 drive-ins located across North America.

In the 1970s, drive-ins began losing their popularity on account of multiple factors, such as the creation of the VCR, which made it easy for families to have their own movie nights at home. Drive-in owners began selling their land to developers, since drive-ins started losing money, and their appeal.

As of 2018, there are only 36 drive-ins left in Canada, and 16 of them are located in southern Ontario. With the emergence of COVID-19, came the revival of drive-ins, and business has been better than ever.

Drive-in attendance in 2020 is roughly 25 per cent higher than last year, according to statista.com.

Charlie Richards, a volunteer at the newly created Stratford, Ont., drive-in, said, “Business has been booming as of late. My mom helped create the screen just so people had something to do during the pandemic. We didn’t think it would end up being this popular, but it’s generated a lot of attention.” 

People young and old are attending drive-ins now. As the global pandemic moves along, many people still aren’t ready to attend cinemas yet, so the drive-in is the next best, and most safe solution. Audience members don’t even need to get out of their vehicles to enjoy some cinematic entertainment, lowering their risk of COVID-19. 

Marilyn Dusky, a 72-year-old New Hamburg resident, attended drive-ins when they were in their peak. When discussing the re-emergence of drive-ins, she said, “It’s exciting to see something old, and nostalgic feel fresh and new again. When I was younger, drive-ins were the weekend hangout spot for teenagers, my friends included. It makes me happy knowing that todays people, given the circumstance, still enjoy going to the drive-in.”

Leave a Reply