In 1921, Claude Caver obtained a permit to project films downtown. With cars parked bumper-to-bumper, patrons witnessed the screening of silent films from their vehicles.
In spite of technical problems (inability to see the screen and no sound), during the Roaring 1920’s, outdoor movies became a popular summer entertainment.
In 1933, the drive-in theater was patented by Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr who, the year before, had experimented in his driveway. After nailing a screen to trees in his backyard, he set a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, and put a radio behind the screen, testing different sound levels with his car windows down and up. Blocks under vehicles in the driveway enabled him to determine the size and spacing of ramps so all automobiles could have a clear view of the screen.
Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey advertising, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.”
The original Hollingshead drive-in had speakers installed on the tower itself which caused a sound delay affecting patrons at the rear of the drive-in’s field.
In 1935, the Pico Drive-in Theater attempted to solve this problem by having a row of speakers in front of the cars.
In 1941, RCA introduced in-car speakers with individual volume controls which solved the noise pollution issue and provided satisfactory sound to drive-in patrons.