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Richard Hollingshead

Camden Drive-in Theater

Fly-in Theater

The Rise and Fall of Drive-Ins

New Jersey Drive-In Theaters



Richard Hollingshead
March 2004

Inventor Richard Hollingshead, a Riverton native, opened the world's first drive-in theater in Camden in 1933.

Hollingshead 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.

Hollingshead, 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.

Hollingshead was very resourceful and thorough with his testing. To see what would happen during rainfall, he used a lawn sprinkler to simulate a rain.

His 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.

In 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.

Next: Camden Drive-in Theater

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