Stefanie Klavens has a love for 20th century pop culture and Americana. In her articulate photographic series, titled “Vanishing Drive-Ins,” Klavens documents the disintegration of the American drive-in. Once a popular social and entertainment aspect, it has been slowly disappearing from the United States. As Klavens explains, “The drive-in has suffered the same fate as the single screen theater. Before World War II the drive-in was a modest trend, but after the war the craze began in earnest, peaking in popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960’s. Drive-ins were ideal for the modern family, everyone jumped into the car, no babysitter needed. ‘Car culture’ had officially arrived as a dominant force on the American scene.”
Despite the rapid popularity of the drive-in, they simply could not stand the test of time. Klavens attributes their decline to the evolution of technology and altered views of land: “Over time, changing real estate values began to have an effect on the drive-in. Land became too valuable for a summer-only business. Widespread adoption of daylight saving time in the mid 1960’s subtracted an hour from outdoor evening screening time. The decline was further hastened by the advent of VCRs and home video rentals. In the 1950s there were over 4,000 drive-ins nationwide. Today there are fewer than 400.”
These photographs, with their heavily saturated colors and blurry prolonged exposures, showcase some of the few drive-ins that are still functioning with a romantic nostalgia. The structures and signage may be antiquated, but the car types and models are a dead ringer for our era.