Richard Hollingshead, a Riverton native, opened the world's
first drive-in theater in Camden in 1933.
is said to have gotten the idea for a drive-in theater
from his mother. His mother was a large woman who was uncomfortable
in the seats at regular movie theaters. Hollingshead got
an idea to help his mother that would combine his two main
interests: cars and movies.
who worked as a sales manager at his dad's store, Whiz
Auto Products, began testing his idea for a drive-in theater
in his own driveway. To project the film, he took a 1928
Kodak movie projector and mounted it on the hood of his
car. For a movie screen, he nailed a sheet to the trees
in his backyard. He placed a radio behind the screen to
test for sound.
was very resourceful and thorough with his testing. To
see what would happen during rainfall, he used a lawn sprinkler
to simulate a rain.
biggest challenge was figuring out how a person in a car
parked behind another car could see the screen. Hollingshead
tinkered with the spacing of the cars and put blocks under
the front wheels. Eventually, he was able to build ramps
that, when properly spaced apart, allowed every person
to see the full screen.
May 1933, Hollingshead got a patent for his drive-in theater.
He obtained funding from his cousin, Willis Smith. Together
with businessmen Edward Ellis and Oliver Willets, they
formed a company called Park-In Theaters, Inc., and construction
of the first theater got underway.