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4th Street Drive-In: St. Pete’s Outdoor Cinema

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In the early 1940s, a novel form of entertainment arrived in St. Petersburg – the drive-in movie theater. On January 23, 1941, the 4th Street Drive-In opened its gates at 7200 4th Street North, becoming the first outdoor cinema in the city.

This was the brainchild of entrepreneurs who recognized the growing popularity of drive-in theaters sweeping across America. With the ability to accommodate over 500 cars, this new theater offered a unique experience where moviegoers could enjoy films from the comfort of their vehicles.

The grand opening was a celebrated event, with crowds flocking to this modern marvel. Patrons were greeted by a massive 60-foot screen and individual speakers mounted at each parking spot, allowing for perfect audio. The opening night featured the comedy “Too Many Husbands” starring Jean Arthur.

In its heyday, the Drive-In became a beloved destination for families and couples alike. Moviegoers could roll down their windows, tune in to the audio, and indulge in classic snacks like popcorn and soda from the concession stand. The drive-in offered an escape from the ordinary, a chance to spend a night under the stars while being entertained on the big screen.

However, the glory days of the Drive-In were relatively short-lived. As television became more widespread in households and indoor theaters offered more amenities, the novelty of drive-ins began to wane. In May 1956, after 15 years of operation, the Drive-In closed its gates for the final time.[13]

While the 4th Street Drive-In is long gone, replaced by modern developments, it holds a special place in St. Petersburg’s history as the city’s first foray into the drive-in movie experience. It paved the way for other outdoor theaters that would follow, leaving a lasting impact on the city’s entertainment landscape and the memories of those who experienced the magic of watching movies under the stars.[13]

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Citations:
[1] https://greenbenchmonthly.com/st-petersburg-history/remembering-fabulous-fourth-street/
[13] https://cinematreasures.org/theaters/34008

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