Drive-In Theaters: Background information when reading Treeborne

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Treeborne

by Caleb Johnson

Treeborne by Caleb Johnson X
Treeborne by Caleb Johnson
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2018, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Dean Muscat
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About this Book

Drive-In Theaters

This article relates to Treeborne

Print Review

Realizing her dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress are dwindling, Tammy Treeborne - a central protagonist in Treeborne - decides to indulge her passion for the movies in another way, by opening her very own drive-in theater in Elberta, Alabama.

A drive-in theater The drive-in theater is an American icon, itself immortalized in countless classic movies (Grease, Twister) and songs (The Beach Boys' "Drive-In," David Bowie's "Drive-In Saturday").

The first patented drive-in was developed by Richard Hollingshead in New Jersey. It's said that Hollingshead was inspired to develop the idea for a different kind of movie theater to help his mother. As a somewhat large lady, Mrs. Hollingshead found the average indoor cinema seats restrictive and uncomfortable. So she wouldn't be deprived of the cinema experience, her son ingeniously decided to put his mother in his car, place a projector on the hood, and tie two sheets to trees in his yard. This solution seemed to work great.

For the next few years, Hollingshead continued to experiment with his drive-in system. He created a ramp that enabled cars to park at different heights, which gave everyone an unobstructed view of the screen. Hollingshead patented his concept in May 1933 and opened the gates to his first theater in Camden, New Jersey the very next month. Hollingshead advertised his drive-in as a place where "The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are."

The first film Hollingshead screened at his drive-in was the British comedy Wives Beware, starring Adolphe Menjou and Margaret Bannerman. He charged people 25 cents per car, plus an extra 25 cents per person. As these innovative theaters continued to gain popularity across the US, more developments were added, such as in-car speakers, which were introduced in early 1940. Drive-ins became particularly popular with families with kids and young dating couples. By 1958, it is estimated there were some 4,000 drive-ins around America, most of them located in rural areas.

While drive-in theaters no longer remain the American staple they once were, there are still operational drive-ins throughout the country, and they remain a nostalgic throwback of the Baby Boomer generation.

Picture of drive-in theater from Take magazine

Filed under Music and the Arts

Article by Dean Muscat

This "beyond the book article" relates to Treeborne. It originally ran in July 2018 and has been updated for the May 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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