35 New Jersey Firsts – #1 – First Drive-In Movie Theater

by Alice Magdziak • January 22, 2014 • Third StateComments (0)2285

Although the year New Jersey began is hard to pin down, the state officially recognizes 1664 when land was given to James, the Duke of York, as a royal gift from Charles II of England. James gave a piece of this valuable real estate to two loyal noblemen, Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley. The document that records this transaction, which is now housed at the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, proclaims that “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea or New Jersey.” And so this document is what officials have decided is what first made New Jersey. That makes this year New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary!

To celebrate this major milestone, we’ve undertaken a project we’re calling 35 New Jersey Firsts.  Here’s our initial installment of 35 things that first came to life in New Jersey.

Photo Credit: Bettmann/Corbis

The first drive-in movie theater was built on a 10-acre plot in Camden County in 1933. Richard Hollingshead Jr. started out experimenting with projection and sound techniques in the driveway of his house at 212 Thomas Avenue in Camden. He used a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car and tacked a large screen onto trees in his yard.  This allowed him to work out exactly where and how the cars should be lined up to make the best sight-lines.

For sound, he put a radio behind the screen and tried out rolling the car windows up, down and half way. He even tested many weather conditions, using his lawn sprinkler he simulated a rainstorm.

He received a patent for his idea in May 1933 for blocks out under the cars’ front wheels to get the best angles to see over the cars in front. He opened his first drive-in theater three weeks after getting the patent.

photo credit: driveintheater.com

Hollingshead’s first advertising to get people to try out his drive-in theater was “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are.”

photo credit: driveintheater.com

Stay tuned for 34 more New Jersey Firsts!

Copyright, You Don’t Know Jersey, LLC (2010-2022)

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