Google on June 6 posted on its search engine homepage an animated tribute to the 79th anniversary of the first drive-in movie theater.
The theater's founder, Richard Hollingshead, was issued a patent in 1933 for his concept of a theater that drivers could attend without having to ditch their cars. Within a few weeks, Hollingshead had opened his theater in Camden, New Jersey.
About.com describes the testing process Hollingshead carried out at his home, prior to setting up his new business:
He experimented in his own driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue, Camden, New Jersey. The inventor mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound.
When the venue opened, Hollingshead's "screen" was a gigantic brick wall, in front of which the audience positioned their cars. Admission was only 25 cents per person, plus 25 cents per car.
According to Wired, the original venue's tagline was, "The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are." Indeed, Google's video doodle, featuring a Hollingshead-inspired theater, shows all kinds of folks enjoying a detective-style film -- from a couple on a date to a family in a pickup truck.
The video also shows a concession stand selling candy and popping fresh popcorn. Speakers can be seen mounted next to the cars in front of the screen, though About.com notes that this wasn't actually a feature of the first drive-in, whose sound came from large speakers positioned next to the screen; in-car speakers came later.
Hollingshead's idea sparked an entertainment craze in America. "By 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins," The New York Times reported in 2004. However, the craze eventually subsided as "television, land prices in the suburbs and, eventually, videos and multiplexes killed most of them," writes the Times.
Drive-ins.com, which maintains a database of the existing drive-ins lists only 469 functioning open-air theaters in the U.S., up slightly from the 417 that were operating when the Times reported in 2004.
Take a look at the video (above) to see Google's drive-in doodle. (Bonus points if you spot the Android robot cameo!) Then, flip through the gallery (below) to see some of our favorite Google Doodles of all time.
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