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At The Drive-In — Together, Alone

Popcorn, candy and drinks sold at the refreshment stand at the Pacific Drive-In Theater in West L.A.
(Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)
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Los Angeles's first permanent drive-in opened in 1934. That year, the Pacific Drive-In Movie Theatre, which stood at the corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards, charged an admission fee of 35 cents per person. The first screening was Handy Andy, starring folksy cowboy Will Rogers.

Nicknamed "ozoners," drive-ins didn't take off until the late 1940s, when car culture and the baby boom added millions of automobiles — and children — to the American landscape.

During the 1950s, the greater L.A. area had approximately 70 drive-ins. By 2017, that number had shrunk to just one.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering traditional movie theaters, some movie fans are returning to drive-ins.

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Hadley Meares dives into the history of these outdoor oases and how they shaped Southern California.


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