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Open-air cinema is over a hundred years old; it was invented in the same decade as aeroplane and automobile.

The oldest constantly operating outdoor cinema, Sun Pictures, is located in Broome, Western Australia. According to Guinness World Records, it holds the title of the Oldest Open-Air Cinema in Operation. This year, it is celebrating 100 years since its opening night on 9th of December 1916!

First drive-in cinema was invented in 1914 in Las Cruces, New Mexico (USA). The first Australian drive-in opened in 1954 in Burwood, a suburb of Melbourne. Drive-ins were great for families with small children, or for teenagers dating in their first car. Highly popular in sixties and seventies of the 20th century, drive-in cinemas eventually went out of style. There are only a handful of them still in operation in Australia, simply because the land they occupied became too valuable. Yet, drive-ins are still adored by many people around the World.

Resurgence of Outdoor Movies began early this century, with the invention of inflatable movie screens. Lightweight, windproof and portable, they made it possible for companies to bring movies to remote places and to create movie theatre in any location. The inflatable movie screen found its legs initially in Germany, followed by the USA.  It came to Australia thanks to the enthusiasm and persistence of outdoor movie specialists, such as Smart Digital Australia and others.

Technology of movie projectors also changed. The profession of projectionist is becoming obsolete. Projection booth with movie projector was replaced by the digital (or video) projector. DLP cinema technology became widely used since 1999. Among projection technologies, DLP became the most popular and is considered the most suitable for outdoor movies.

Changing values of our society also played a role in open-air cinema comeback. People want to spend more time outdoors, and to be together with friends and family. Open air cinema gives just that – breathtaking scenery, fresh air, opportunity for socializing and positive emotions.

Today, outdoor movies return to parks, holiday resorts, rooftops and even backyards, creating a new page in the history of open air cinema.

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Olga Kustova

Marketing guru, event organiser and blogger, passionate about all things outdoors: hiking, camping, outdoor movies and entertainment.