Google honors S. Jersey invention of ‘passion pit’

The invention of the drive-in-movie theater in Pennsauken in 1933 was celebrated by an animation on Google's home page on June 6, 2012.
The invention of the drive-in-movie theater in Pennsauken in 1933 was celebrated by an animation on Google's home page on June 6, 2012.
Posted: June 07, 2012

Today’s animated Google Doodle -- its ever changing home-page logo -- touts a local milestone: The debut of the drive-in movie theater in Pennsauken 79 years ago today.

People paid up to $1 to park their Model A’s, Hudsons and Packards to watch "Wives Beware," an English comedy on a huge screen as a loud sound system disturbed the neighbors near Airport Circle, back when it had an airport.

Yes, it was a talkie. Not long after drive-ins caught on, clunky wired speakers were provided for each car.

The inventor, Richard Hollingshead Jr., may have gotten the idea from his mother, Donna, a large woman who disliked cramped movie theater seats.

She remarked one day she wished she could park her car in a movie theater, Wick Hollingshead, the inventor’s nephew, told the Inquirer just before the 75th anniversary.

Richard Hollingshead tested the concept at his Riverton home, and even got a patent, though he never collected many royalties, despite creating a cultural phenomenon that peaked in 1958 with more than 4,000 so-called "passion pits."

Families packed their Ramblers and Impalas with squabbling children to park alongside grappling/groping teenagers in those days when TV shows were black and white and Playboy was considered hard-core smut.

The Pennsauken enterprise lasted only a few years -- Zinman Furs has occupied the spot for seven decades -- but the world’s second drive-in, Shankweiler’s, is still operating in Oreland, Pa., near Allentown. This weekend’s double feature is "Prometheus" followed by "The Avengers."

New Jersey’s only field of screens -- and the closest one to Philly -- is Vineland’s Delsea Drive-In, which has two screens to show major first-run features.

Fireworks will be going off during intermission Saturday in honor of the anniversary at Becky’s Drive-In in Berlinsville, Northampton County.

The next-nearest drive-ins are Mahoning Valley, north of Becky’s; and Bengie’s, outside Baltimore, which claims to have the world’s biggest screen.

Delaware’s Diamond State Drive-In near Dover closed a few years ago.

Today’s drive-in-goers pick up the soundtrack via car and portable radios, and many avail themselves of two options not found at indoor theaters: bringing pets and the freedom to smoke.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

RRR

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