What are some interesting facts about movie theaters in the 1950s?


Quick Answer

In the 1950s, going to the movies was a formal occasion. Ladies and gentlemen dressed accordingly: women in dresses or smart suits and men in suits and ties. Moviegoers would not leave the house without a hat completing their outfit. The 1950s was also considered the peak of popularity of drive-in theaters.

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Full Answer

In the late 1950s, especially in rural areas, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins spread across the United States. Those 4,000 drive-in theaters accounted for 25 percent of the nation's movie screens. The first drive-in theater was invented in Las Cruces, New Mexico on June 11, 1914, when the Airdome Theater opened. It reportedly had room to park 10 cars.

The second drive-in theater, Theatre de Guadalupe, was opened in Las Cruces, New Mexico on April 23, 1915. It could fit 40 or more cars with over 700 people.

Drive-in theaters got popular thanks to the fact that a family with a baby could take care of their child while watching a movie, while teenagers who had cars found drive-ins ideal for dates. However, revenue is more limited than regular theaters since showings can only begin at twilight. There were several attempts to create suitable conditions for daylight viewing such as large tent structures, but nothing viable was developed.

Another drawback was that as drive-ins gave their customers greater privacy, they got a bad reputation as immoral. During the 1970s, some drive-ins even began to show pornographic movies in less family-centered time slots to bring in extra income. Drive-in theaters started to decline in the 1970s, and by 2013, they comprised only 1.5 percent of movie screens in the United States.

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