The 1950s combination of a booming American car culture and the renewed popularity of a night out to the movies meant this next fad was almost a logical step. Why not put cars and movies together to create that ubiquitous '50s icon, the drive-in theater?
The first drive-in theater opened in June 1933 in New Jersey, but the concept didn't catch the public's fancy until the early 1950s. With cars readily available in America's prosperous postwar years, and new FM technology making it possible for theaters to send a movie's sound directly into a viewers' car radio, this was an ideal way for couples, families and groups of friends to see movies.
Drive-ins appealed to a range of viewers. Some theaters charged per car, meaning a group of friends packed into one tiny car could see a movie at a good discount. Families liked the flexibility of the theatres, which often included playgrounds, and teenagers notoriously attended drive-ins for a little extra privacy on date nights.
Drive-ins eventually fell out of favor as indoor theaters grew in size and spectacle. But about 500 drive-ins remain, as a living tribute to America's combined love affair with cars and the silver screen [source: Long].