A drive-in theater is a type of a movie theater that is located outdoors. Moviegoers are meant to drive into the theater and park their cars in front of a large screen that displays the movie. A drive-in theater typically contains a large screen, a designated parking area, a projection booth and a concession stand.
Though many drive-in theaters include the above attributes, variations can exist between theaters. For example, the outdoor screen can be either a large wall painted white or a structure specially built to display the movie. Similarly, the sound from a movie can be produced by loud communal speakers, produced by small individual speakers placed inside the car or transmitted into the car over the radio. The latter is the cheaper and most popular means for moviegoers to receive the movie's sound.
A drive-in theater also can boast special attractions. Playgrounds for children might be offered so that kids are allowed to enjoy themselves while parents watch films. Merry-go-rounds, miniature railroads and mini golf courses also can be included within a drive-in theater for added decor or as another type of attraction. It wasn't unusual for some drive-in theaters to include an attraction such as a petting zoo with exotic animals.
Drive-in theaters operate with the idea that moviegoers will remain seated in their cars for the majority of the film's run time, but many theaters give patrons an alternative. Some offer lawn chairs and patios. Others might treat their concession stand like a restaurant, providing indoor seating for those who prefer to sit down at a table and eat.
The benefits of visiting a drive-in theater are many. Moviegoers are able to watch a movie comfortably within their own vehicles and are afforded privacy while doing so. This will reduce intrusion, so it can result in a more pleasurable viewing experience. One potential drawback of attending a drive-in theater is that the movies are best visited at night, because the screen is exposed to light from the sun, which can make viewing difficult during the day.
Drive-in theaters saw their heyday in the 1950s and early 1960s. The rise of land values, increased business costs and the advent of the television and videocassette recorder (VCR) made drive-in theaters difficult for many owners to continue operating. Many of those that remain open in the 21st century are marketed as novelties.