Perhaps more so than any other aspect of the cinema, the
drive-in reflected the American values of its time. Its
beginnings, rise in popularity, and eventual decline paralleled
the times and preferences of a nation, and perhaps its innocence
The first true drive-in theatre was built in 1933 in Camden,
New Jersey by Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr. The second was
in Texas, a cheaply built structure in Galveston that lasted
less than a month.
Houstons first outdoor theatre, originally known
as the Drive-in Theatre, opened on June 7, 1940. The generic
name gave way to the Texas Drive-in, and later, its better-known
name of the South Main Drive-In.
Many other followed: The Epsom Downs, Winkler, Shepherd,
Market Street, Trail, Airline, Hempstead Road, Irvington,
Post Oak (two separate ones), King Center Twin, Hi-Nabor,
Red Bluff, Tidwell, Gulfway, Thunderbird, Telephone Road
Twin, and McLendon Triple.
Then there was the massive Loews Sharpstown Drive-in,
with an oversized concession stand and childrens play
area, including a miniature train ride.
The last drive-in to be built was also the last to go.
Gordon McLendons I-45 Drive-in opened on July 2, 1982.
It closed ten years later, on February 29, 1992. With the
I-45, the era of the Drive-in came to a close in Houston.
In 2005, the owners of the Crossroads Drive-In in Shiner
constructed a new drive-in theatre, the Starlite, on Highway
59 near Kingwood. The following year, the Showboat
Drive-in opened in Tomball. For those who are willing
to make the drive, it is still possible to see a movie under
the stars, just like the old days.