Drive-in Cinemas were the brain child of Richard M. Hollingshead. In
the early 30's Richard began development of this idea by stringing up a screen
between two trees, mounting a Kodak projector to the hood of his car
and placing a radio behind the screen for sound. With this crude
example of a Drive-in, he began to conduct tested on sound, weather
and parking issues. On August 6, 1932 he brought his idea to the
patent office. May 16, 1933 he was issued a patent
Through the 30's and 40's drive-ins Cinemas began to pop-up all
across America. Through the 50's, drive-in construction began
to boom. The number of drive-ins rocket up at an average of 400 constructed
each year. Drive-in cinemas soon became the popular diversion for
families and youth. For a small price, a car load of
friends could enjoy a summer evening outdoors enjoying the latest
movie. The drive-in was more than just a cinema experience, it was a
Shortly after the 50's attendance began a long and slow decline. Then with
the introduction of Cable TV and VCRs in the 80's, Drive-ins began
to disappear from the landscape. Though, quite a few
drive-ins had been built in New England, most of them are now defunct.
Massachusetts, On Rt. 146 lies the remain of the Sutton Motor-in.
The Motor-in had opened its doors in 1947.
It had a long and prosperous life of entertaining people from near
and far. Then in August of 1996 the Town of Sutton forced the cinema to
close. The reason given was that it increased the traffic on
the main road beyond a safe limit. Though the owners went through
many court sessions in an attempt to reopen the Motor-In, it wasn't
meant to be.
so many years of passing by the Motor-In, I was excited to finally
get a closer look. The marquee was still standing but had seen much
better days. Ahead I could see the 'A'- frame ticket
booth still waiting to greet the local patrons. In the center of the
cinema's ten acres was a small
building containing the snack bar, projection room and water
closets. I shuffled up to the snack bar to see what remained inside.
To my surprise, though a bit disheveled, it look in excellent
condition. I could imaging with just a little tidying up and this
place could be serving hotdogs, and slush puppies to movie goers
once again. I next proceeded to see the projection room.
Though the door was wide open leaving the equipment vulnerable to
the elements, the projectors appeared to be in exceptional
order. The size of these cinematic monsters can as no surprise
considering the size of the CinemaScope-ratio screen the movies were
projected onto. It was fascinating to see the works
I took a look behind the scenes of the mammoth screen. Underneath
was a room used to store various pieces of equipment including a generator.
Even during power outages the Motor-in was still prepared to
entertain the family. There were scaffoldings and ladders above
giving easy access to any part of the screen in need of repair. From
the condition of the floor it appeared that now the screens only
purpose was to provided a haven
it was sad that this gem was no longer in operation, it brought back
many fond memories. Drive-ins offer something special that you can't
find at normal theater. As long as those who value this unique piece
of Americana continue to visit those that still exist, they'll still
be around for a long time. Once the
weather gets a bit warmer, I think I'll put in some time to help
assure they won't disappear form New England.
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Motor-In Photos >