Leduc’s Drive-In Theatre

The drive-in theater was invented on June 6, 1933, when Richard M. Hollingshead nailed a bed sheet between trees in his backyard to use as a screen, mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, and placed a radio behind the screen for sound. Hollingshead lined up cars in his driveway, and placed blocks beneath the front wheels of the rear cars so that all viewers could see the screen. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person. Hollingshead patented his invention and the drive-in theater was born. The movie shown was Wives Beware, a 1932 comedy starring Adolphe Menjou.
    The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, a children’s playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars around the 28-acre theater lot.
    By the 1940s, drive-in theaters were found in 27 states and most Canadian provinces.  Drive-In theaters reached their peak of about 4,000 in the 1950s and early 1960s. The peak arrived about the time many baby boomers started driving and going on dates. Many younger baby boomers remember going to the drive-in theater with their parents, wearing their pajamas on the playgrounds below the giant screens, and trying to stay awake through the double feature. In some circles drive-in theaters have been given credit for the mini-baby boom of the late 60’s early 70’s!
    It was during this time that the Drive-In Theater came to Leduc. In August of 1953 Cluny Evans, Ab Staniland, Gordon Gaetz, and Roy Chabillon pooled their resources and opened the Leduc Drive-In. The Drive-In operated during the summer and was located on 12 acres one mile south of the Leduc Cheese factory southwest of Leduc on a farm once owned by A.G Campbell. 
    The Drive-In was one of the finest built in the Edmonton area. There were individual speakers for 357 cars with the option to expand to an additional 240 cars. The screen was 63 feet high and 58 feet wide and capable of projecting 3D films. It had a powerful projector that could cast a movie over 400 feet. There was a snack bar and children’s playground and even featured baby bottle warmers for young mothers. 
    The theater operators discovered early in 1960 that Alberta Transportation was planning on building the new Highway #2 bypass right through the Drive-In site and 1960 would be the Drive-In’s last summer of operation
    Leduc would not be alone as during the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of drive-in theaters closed as new entertainment options such as television and multiplex theaters continued to drive down attendance, land values increased, and aging owners chose to finance their retirements by selling to developers. The last Alberta Drive-In was located in Redcliff, near Medicine Hat and closed for the last time in 2004. 
    If you happen to be in Carlyle, Saskatchewan this summer you could take in a movie at the last Drive-in on the prairies by going to the Prairie Dog Drive-In. Today there are 36 Drive-Ins in Canada with most being located in Ontario.
    Recently there has been an upswing of drive-in theaters. Baby boomers’ nostalgia for drive-in theater has created a resurgence in drive-in theaters across the United States and Canada. In many cases it has been shopping malls that have used modern technology and converted their parking lots into a drive-in for special occasions.

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