Drive-In Bingo: What’s it all about?

The Rise Of Drive-In BingoWe’ve all heard about Drive-In theatres, but did you know how they began? Did you also know there was a new craze in Ireland for drive-in bingo? Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything.

Motivated by his mother’s inability to sit comfortably in typical Cinema seats, Richard M. Hollingshead invented the drive-in theatre concept in 1932. Advertised as “Entertainment for the whole family, even your noisy children”, the idea quickly caught on with cars being charged just 25 cents. By the mid 60’s, the American love affair with automobiles had led to the development of 4,000 theatres across the country. One drive-in theatre was the Johnny All-Weather Drive-In which covered 29 acres and could park 2,500 vehicles based in Long Island, New York. It also had a restaurant with roof-seating, a children’s playground and indoor theatre for bad weather and daytime showings.

The advent of colour TV’s, film rentals and rising property prices led to a sharp decline in drive-in theatres in the US over the next few decades. The drive-in theatres dependence on dark nights and good weather led to many cancellations which made it inconvenient for regular trips. The theatres also only operated in the Summer months offering b-rated Hollywood movies, no match for the summer blockbusters. Some theatres still remain, mainly as a novelty attraction for those seeking nostalgic entertainment, though many drive-ins including one in Manchester are successfully still in operation.

The Rise Of Drive-In Bingo

Bingo is another industry that’s had its fair share of decline since the early 70’s, so it’s quite fitting that a new craze in Ireland is combining these two concepts together in a surprising mashup. The rise of internet bingo, the smoking ban and tax increases on bingo profits led to many closures, with only 400 remaining in the UK. Sites such as Paddy Power and Two Big Ladies offered Bingo fans a simple way to play bingo online from the comfort of their home.

However, some fans of the popular game are fighting back against the internet. This summer, hundreds of bingo players made their way in cars to the GAA stadium in Portlaoise, County Laois for what was described as the first ever drive-in Bingo event in the world.

The caller announced the numbers through a microphone that could be picked up in the cars using a certain radio frequency. Cars notified the event staff of winning tickets by beeping their horn and flashing their lights.. The jackpot was an impressive €4,900, and all profits went to three local groups in need of funding.

“It’s a great laugh and there’s been a lot of positive reaction. You can relax in your own car with friends or family, have a smoke if you want, and enjoy the game and not worry about parking,” said Séamus Davis, the organizer of the event, which was created in part due to the smoking ban.

Séamus said he plans to hold the events regularly from now on and that people from all over the country had contacted him about visiting the next event, or expressed interest in creating their own drive-in bingo day in their local area.