Here are some of the alternative uses and unusual applications of the drive-in concept since the theaters were born in 1933:
- "Lie-in" theaters - motel rooms next to drive-ins equipped with large picture windows and speakers that allow patrons to view the movies - were established in Wilbraham, Mass.; Burlington, Vt.; and Monte Vista, Colo.- In 1948, a "fly-in" theater opened in Belmar, N.J. Pilots could land their planes, taxi to an appropriate row, and view a film while hearing dialogue over individual speakers.
- "Dive-in" variations have been spawned at San Dimas' Raging Waters amusement park, where patrons in inner tubes once watched flicks from a pool, and at Florida's Weeki Watchee Springs, where visitors view movies under water.
- In 1988, New York City's Dezerland entertainment complex opened a "drive-in" inside a Manhattan warehouse filled with rows of automobiles. Vintage movies such as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" are projected as patrons relax in classic convertibles.
- Some drive-in theaters, including a Houlton, Maine, facility that hasn't shown a film in 17 years, offer religious services. Vacationers and other churchgoers remain in their cars and honk "Amen." The Antioch (Calif.) Baptist Church erected the Gospel Drive-In and snack bar on its grounds and offered films like "Angel Alley," "The Cross and the Switchblade" and "Image of the Beast," while strolling field ushers maintained "godly behavior" among patrons.
- Since 1930, three years before drive-in theaters were developed, Hugo Zeiter of Ridge Farm, Ill., has taken his traveling show from town to town, projecting movies on the sides of buildings, where poor children can watch for free.
- In 1989, the Norwegian National Opera staged a drive-in opera production of "The Barber of Seville," with mammoth loudspeakers and close-ups of performers projected on video screens.
- "Sleep-in" movies were offered in Nantes, France, where cots and a movie screen were set up in a field.
- In Japan, shopping centers and malls that don't receive much retail business at night put up portable screens in the parking lots and charge motorists to view movies.
- Many drive-in owners defray their operating costs with secondary uses, such as flea markets, farmers markets and swap meets. Others rent marquee space for advertising.
- Some failed drive-ins became working junkyards or garbage heaps.
Sources: John Haskell, Richard H. Jackson, Douglas Merriam, Smithsonian magazine and "The Whole Pop Catalog."
Pop-culture inspired by drive-ins
- One lonely night at this drive-in
and now I know what a fool I've been.
Just like this Coke, my love is gone.
I've hit the bottom, now I'm all alone.
- Buddy Holly, "An Empty Cup"
Drive-ins have permeated song and film. Here are a few others:
- "Wake Up Little Susie," made famous by the Everly Brothers.
- "Drive-In," Beach Boys.
- "Alone in a Drive-In Movie," from the "Grease" (1978) soundtrack.
- "Drive-In" (1976), feature film.
- "Midnight Cowboy" (1969).
- "D.C. Cab" (1983).
- "The Outsiders" (1983).
- "The Sugarland Express" (1974).
- "Targets" (1968), a suspenseful shoot-out climax at a drive-in.
- "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" (1974), a daring escape scene.
- "White Heat" (1949), James Cagney eluding cops in a sea of cars.
- "The Flintstones" (1994), re-enacts the cartoon's famous drive-in introduction and coda.
- "Poetic Justice" (1993), opening murder scene beneath silver screen.