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        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 number.  

           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 social event. 

           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. 

In Sutton 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.  

After 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 up-close. 

Finally 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 for pigeons.  

Though 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.

~Strange NE

< More Sutton Motor-In Photos >





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