One hundred and sixty vehicles and a total of 1500 exhibits are presented in the varied permanent exhibition of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The “33 Extras” are a particular highlight: they can bring the history of personal mobility and motoring culture to life using details that are often surprising. The Mercedes-Benz Museum Inside newsletter series draws attention to the “33 Extras” and focuses on their background stories. Today’s edition is all about the drive-in cinema.

The drive-in cinema

1 – Drive-in: The corona pandemic has many sides. For example, it has not only given the drive-in cinema a new lease of life, it is even experiencing reinterpretations. Now it is possible to take part in lectures, theatre productions and concerts and even celebrate weddings all from the comfort of your car. The advantage in these times: even at bigger events a safe distance to other visitors is ensured. Either horns or smartphones are used to applaud, the latter with a special applause app, in order to protect neighbours from noise pollution.

2 – History: The first drive-in cinema opened in 1933 in New Jersey, USA. In Germany, this cinematic premiere took place in 1960 in Gravenbruch near Frankfurt am Main – many American soldiers were stationed in that area at the time. Drive-in cinemas experienced their heyday all over the world in the 1950s and 1960s.

3 – Site: In the simplest case a car park can be transformed into a wonderful drive-in cinema and you bring your own snacks and drinks with you. In permanent drive-in cinemas the vehicles are tiered for a perfect view and a “diner” provides catering in authentic style. Of course, the big hits are popcorn and soft drinks.

4 – Technology: The screen is usually exceptionally big and the projector is therefore very powerful. The soundtrack is fed directly into the vehicle, as outside speakers would require an incredible volume. Today’s drive-in cinemas transmit to the sound systems of the vehicles over a VHF radio frequency. Simply tune to 89.0 MHz, for example, and you are ready to go.

5 – “Klangfilm”: It used to be different. A mono speaker with a cable used to be passed through the window for your own individual sound, which was either hung onto the side window on the inside or positioned somewhere else in the vehicle interior. The “Klangfilm” speaker of the “33 Extras” at the Mercedes-Benz Museum is an example of this. The manufacturer was a subsidiary of Siemens, founded in the 1920s, specialising in audio technology for cinemas.

6 – Simple use: The “Klangfilm” speaker is housed in a robust case made from cast metal. The volume can be adjusted with a controller. And so nothing can stand in the way of a multimedia delight.

7 – Mobility and film: The growing motorisation and the associated freedom of individual mobility contributed towards the success of the drive-in cinema from the 1950s onwards. And so a very special chapter of automotive culture was developed. The giant screen under shining stars alone is great cinema. Add to that the comfort of your own vehicle.

8 – Private space: As long as everyone is facing forwards. After all, there are persistent rumours that quite a few couples have taken advantage of the comfort of the private space they have brought along.

9 – Film schedule: It is clear that the drive-in cinema is experiencing a revival as a contemporary form of entertainment outside of your own four walls. In many places all over the world, cinema operators are inspiring their guests with a full schedule in open areas and car parks. Even if car seats turn into cinema seats – the schedule has films of all genres – and not just captivating road movies.