Have you ever wondered what sparked the inspiration for the drive-in theater in the first place? Believe it or not, those humble beginnings have ties to one New Jersey mom's discomfort, which we'll dive into in just a bit.

But first, where across the country can you even find drive-in theaters nowadays? One thing's for sure, they're not as widespread as they used to be.

That doesn't mean they're in any danger of completely disappearing forever. In fact, did you know that New Jersey is among the top 25 states in the nation with the most drive-in movie theaters still in operation today?

It's hard to believe, but it's true. And we'll take a look at those 25 states with the most drive-in theaters still in operation, including where New Jersey ranks.

Also, keep in mind that none of these drive-in movie theaters might exist today if it weren't for that one uncomfortable Jersey mom dating back to the 1920s. It's a fascinating history that we'll get into right after the rankings.

Drive-In Movie Survives In New Mexico
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LOOK: States with the most drive-in movie theaters

Where can you have a movie night under the stars? Stacker examined Census Bureau data to find out which states have the most drive-in movie theaters.
Moviegoers Experience 1950s At Drive-In Theater
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Remember: Drive-in movie theaters exist thanks in part to New Jersey

Did you notice that fun fact above? New Jersey was the first state in the nation to have a drive-in movie theater. Not only that, but all 25 states listed above owe it to New Jersey for the existence of the drive-in theaters they have today.

Another fun fact is that they weren't always called drive-in theaters. Before that name came to be, they were initially called "park-in theaters." As the concept grew and became more popular, the name eventually changed from park-in to drive-in.

According to history.com, the park-in theater "was the brainchild of Richard Hollingshead, a movie fan and a sales manager at his father’s company, Whiz Auto Products, in Camden." Hollingshead's inspiration for the idea actually came from watching his mother, who would struggle to get comfortable in a traditional movie theater seat.

Movie theater with projection screen
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Determined to make the movie-watching experience more enjoyable, Richard set out on trying his concept, which involved watching a movie from the comfort of your car.

According to history.com, Richard "experimented in the driveway of his own house with different projection and sound techniques, mounting a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, pinning a screen to some trees, and placing a radio behind the screen for sound."

And five years later in June 1933, Camden Drive-in, the very first outdoor movie theater of its kind, opened to the public in Pennsauken, NJ, thanks to Richard. And after so many years, we see that concept still alive today across the country.

attachment-Image Camden County

So roots of the drive-in theater go beyond just the first one to open in Camden. The very concept of the idea also came out of New Jersey thanks to someone who simply wanted to make watching movies more comfortable for his mother.

If it wasn't for the idea and creation of the first drive-in theater by this New Jersey family, we most likely wouldn't have drive-in theaters throughout the US today. So to the rest of the country, you're welcome.

If you'd like to catch a drive-in movie here in the Garden State, check out South Jersey's Delsea Drive-In, or North Jersey's Newark Moonlight Cinema. And keep in mind, New Jersey is also known to have many pop-up drive-in movies throughout the summer season.


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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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