Will Drive-In Theaters Drive the Future?

Story by: HEIDIE MOJICA / Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush

TUHS Press reporter Heidie Mojica

I know I don’t like routine, so hanging out at the same spot and doing the same old thing goes against the whole idea of going out to do something new.

However, oddly enough, what I have discovered is that if you want to do something new and different you have to bring back the old. From what I’ve seen, people from every generation are looking for ways to “go back in time.”

Films have been a part of American culture for many decades and since history has a way of repeating itself, Americans have rediscovered a favored pastime of the 50s and 60s: the drive-in theater. Richard M. Hollingshead invented the drive-in in 1933 in Camden, NJ. By 1958 there were 5,000 different drive-ins in America. Now less than 400 remain.

I remember watching Rugrats as a kid and I thought it was “cool” when they watched Reptar on the huge screen outside. Later on, I saw The Outsiders, which had scenes in a drive-in, but I thought drive-ins didn’t exist anymore.

Zoom in a bit more into the future and here’s me at the Temple University Summer Journalism program for high school students looking for something to base my editorial on. After hours of research I said I have to go to a drive-in.

Now considering that I actually had a legitimate reason to go, I convince my Mom to take me to the closest drive-in near us, which is down in South Jersey. The hour ride was definitely worth it although I wish a drive-in were closer to us so others from this area could get a blast from the past like I did.

The Delsea Drive-In is located in Vineland, New Jersey and is now the only remaining drive-in in New Jersey. It originally opened in 1949, and closed in 1987. But thanks to John DeLeonardis, and wife Jude, it reopened on July 23, 2004.

The DeLeonardis’ were originally looking for a place to open an indoor skate park so kids in that area could have more to do, but their plans took a different direction.

This drive-in shows films on two different screens one of which has survived since 1940. The drive-in sells food, novelties and T-shirts. Our tickets were $9 for adults and for kids eleven and under like my little sister it was $4 (kids under three enter for free.)

We drove in and parked our car in front of screen two and walked around until our films started. Drive-ins always offer a double feature for the price of one ticket and occasionally triple features.

The Delsea has come a long way since its opening.

“I always want to improve,” says Jude. “There’s been a numerous amount of improvements made here since July 23, 2004. We started with nothing. We started with a tent out here, and added the outdoor freezer and refrigerator.”

The Delsea projects films from two separate booths but Jude said they plan to convert to digital as soon as possible. “Everybody wants to improve, and improvements take what? Money!”

In comparison to the boardwalk, and even to an indoor complex, the drive-in theater is a much cheaper alternative to enjoying a fun night out.

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