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For other uses, see Drive-in (disambiguation).
Drive-in theater in Neu-Isenburg, Germany

A drive-in is a facility (such as a restaurant, movie theater, or church) where one can literally drive in with an automobile for service. At a drive-in restaurant, for example, customers park their vehicles and are usually served by staff who walk or rollerskate out to take orders and return with food, encouraging diners to remain parked while they eat. Drive-in theaters have a large screen and a car parking area for film-goers.

It is usually distinguished from a drive-through, in which drivers line up to make an order at a microphone set up at window height, and then drive to a window where they pay and receive their food. The drivers then take their meals elsewhere to eat. In the German-speaking world, the term is now often used instead of "drive-through" for that kind of service. In Japan, the term refers to a rest area. In France, this term has become popular because of American movies showing that kind of service, and more recently due to the expansion of fast-food restaurants.

The first drive-in restaurant was Kirby's Pig Stand, which opened in Dallas, Texas, in 1921.[1][2] In North America, drive-in facilities of all types have become less popular since their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, with drive-throughs rising to prominence since the 1970s and 1980s.

Drive-in Ferris wheel
(video) Scenes in and around a drive-in restaurant in Long Beach, California, 1952.

In popular culture[edit]

As a symbol of the 1950s, the drive-in is featured in many films or series about this period. The beginning of American Graffiti takes place front of a drive-in, while in Happy Days, the "Arnold's Drive-In" is one of the main locations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wells, Dick. "SRMA Update", in Street Rodder, 12/98, p.298.
  2. ^ Jones, Dwayne. "What's New with the Pig Stands—Not the Pig Sandwich!"

External links[edit]