Where Was Michigan’s First Drive-In Theater?
If you ever visited a drive-in theater in daytime, it’s like venturing into an abandoned area…but come night time, it all came to life with lights, people, honking horns, the smell of greasy concession stand food, exhaust fumes, headlights shining on you while you’re making out, steamy car windows…..gotta love the drive-in!
The very first drive-in theater in the United States opened in Camden, New Jersey. The idea was hatched by Richard Hollingshead when he attempted to show 16 millimeter films in his driveway. Then he would sit in his car and watch.
In 1933, he opened the first drive-in that accommodated 400 vehicles, all viewing a 30’ X 40’ movie screen.
Beginning in the 1940s, teenagers realized they could not only 'make out' away from the prying eyes of parents, but they could also sneak in & drink alcohol. There was so much uproar among parents about the “immoral” teenagers, that drive-ins were frequently referred to as “passion pits”…and the teens took advantage of it.
The popularity of the drive-in theater exploded to unheard of proportions…..and by the 1950s, there were approximately 5,000 drive-ins in the country.
While more and more homes were buying television sets, attendance at movie theaters were dwindling…..but not at drive-in theaters. The drive-ins kept packin’ em in every weekend.
It was in 1938 when Michigan got its first drive-in movie theater….the East Side in Harper Woods. It was located at 19440 Harper Avenue, and opened on May 26, 1938. Thirty-nine years later, 1977, it closed for good. It was torn down and the site is now the home of Salter Memorial Park.
Take a look below at a gallery of photos and ads featuring Michigan’s first drive-in movie theater, the East Side Drive-in!