The drive-up Fotomat store offered fast & easy next day film developing in the 1970s & 1980s

Vintage Fotomat booth - 1970s

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In a world where instant gratification has become the norm, it’s hard to imagine a time when we had to wait patiently for our photographs to be developed. Yet, in the pre-digital era, capturing and preserving memories required a process that was both intriguing and time-consuming.

Enter Fotomat, the ingenious drive-up photo store that revolutionized the world of film developing. Established by a man named Charles Brown in 1965, these charming kiosks — often set up in parking lots near grocery stores — became a symbol of convenience, offering customers a fast and easy way to get their film rolls developed in just 24 hours.

They were a huge success, and by 1970, the company had nearly one thousand franchised drive-thru photo stores. Dozens of those iconic little booths/huts still exist today, having found new life as tiny coffee shops and other small drive-thru businesses.

Fotomat photo hut 1977

We develop film at Fotomat. And we develop fast. In fact, with most types of film, you can pick up your pictures the next day.

We also sell Kodak and Polaroid film. GE Flashcubes. Eveready batteries. Even some Instamatic camera models.

FOTOMATES: She’s your Fotomate. She knows quite a bit about film and developing, so you’ll find her very helpful. (And a lot prettier than the corner druggist or the guy at the camera store.)

Vintage Fotomat booths (1971)

Vintage Fotomat booth: Film – Developing

Drive-up Fotomat booth 1987 - West Peabody, Massachusetts via Wikipedia
Drive-up Fotomat booth 1987 – West Peabody, Massachusetts via Wikipedia

VIDEO: Vintage Fotomat TV commercial (1977)

This retro television commercial starred Pam Dawber, who would go on to star in Mork & Mindy (and she’d later marry Mark Harmon, too)!

YouTube video

Shoot the works – Fotomat one-day photo service (1970s)

(Fireworks for Independence Day/Fourth of July)

Shoot the works - Fotomat one-day photo service

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Get your summer’s worth (1972)

Fotomat 126-12 color print film (fits all instant loading cameras) – 3 rolls – $1.99 – We develop friends overnight

We develop friends overnight

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Double Feature at the drive-in

Buy 2 of anything before Easter, and we’ll knock off 10% – Fotomat film and flash sale

Fotomat film and flash sale

Polaroid instant cameras: OneStep, Pronto & more (1977)

Everything you need for taking good pictures (1977)

Ten years ago, it would have been the corner store. Now you have nearly 3000 ways to get good pictures easier. They’re called Fotomat Stores.

We put them in shopping center parking lots. You don’t go into a Fotomat Store. You stop by it. And you don’t stand in line, because you don’t get out of your car.

You do get a person behind a smile who helps you with your picture problems.

The corner store is for toothpaste and funny books. The Fotomat Store is for film and developing.

Fotomat - Everything you need for taking good pictures (1977)

You err. Fotomat redeems. (1977)

Uh-oh. In the excitement of getting the kids to pose just right, you take a picture that looks like this.

Want to keep it? Fotomat gives you a choice. Keep it if you want, bring it back if you don’t. We’ll develop every printable picture on your roll of film. Then you decide.

If you’re not tickled with any print, come in to the Fotomat Store and we’ll buy it back. In cash. Take up to a month to mull it over and don’t forget your receipt… What you take is what you get. But what you keep is up to you. The Fotomat No Fault Foto Guarantee.

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Fotomat photo processing

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Film today – prints tomorrow: We develop friends overnight (1972)

Fotomat - We develop friends overnight

There’s no such thing as a snapshot (1979)

The word “snapshot” seems to convey the image of a quick, easy-to-shoot picture that’s relatively unimportant in the photographic scheme of things.

Quick and easy. Certainly. Unimportant? Certainly not.

If anything, snapshots are the most important pictures of all. Without fuss or fanfare, they capture the once-in-a-lifetime events and the unexpected, unrehearsed moments that become your most cherished memories. And that’s exactly how Fotomat treats them.

From the time you leave your film at the Fotomat Store till the time you pick up your prints, we handle your snapshots with all the care and concern they deserve.

Vintage fotomat

Photo pickup promise (June 1977)


Fotomat will now tell you exactly how fast your pictures will be developed and ready. We’ll put the day and the time right on your receipt. Like this. If your pictures aren’t ready, we’ll give you a roll of good, fresh Fotomat film. Free.

This offer is good for all Fotomat and Kodak film. United States participating stores only. We might miss. But don’t count on it. Just count on good pictures from Fotomat. Ready when promised.


Vintage Fotomat photos ad 1977 (2)

Fotomat ad (September 1977)

Fotomat guarantees when they’ll come in, and how they’ll come out

Vintage Fotomat photos ad 1977 1

Vintage Fotomat flyer

Fresh film is available in most popular sizes… print, slide and movie

Vintage Fotomat flyer

Taco Bell chain has 55 drive-ins with $8 million in sales (1966)

Fotomat introduces Drive-Thru-Movies (videotape rentals from 1979)

Or, to put it another way, Fotomat introduces the most exciting and entertaining use yet for your home videocassette player.

Movies for rent. From $7.95. Fotomat Drive-Thru Movies are full-length feature films on videocassettes that you rent, pick up at your convenient Fotomat Drive-Thru Store and enjoy at home on your own video cassette player.

They’re available for both VHS and Beta machines (except Beta players with one-hour only capability), And they are, in the best Fotomat tradition, very affordable. Just $7.95 to $13.95 for five days. Or you can purchase a film for as little as $39.95.

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The latest. And the greatest. What you get for these prices is just what you’d expect from Fotomat. Quality.

You can choose from recent releases like Saturday Night Fever or classics like Shane or family fare like Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. Plus a variety of plays, concerts, sports and instructional cassettes. Over 130 titles in all.

On top of all that, you can order with just one phone call. You can pay with Visa, Master Charge. or, if you prefer, cash. And you can usually pick up your order the very next day at your Fotomat Store.

Fotomat Drive-Thru Movie Guide 1979

There’s more.

If you’d like to know more, stop by your nearest participating Fotomat Store. Ask for our free Drive-Thru Movie Guide. It has more detailed information, a complete list of tides and instructions for ordering.

Once you’ve seen what we’ve got to offer, you’ll be glad you were the first on your block to buy a videocassette machine.

1979 Fotomat movie rentals

Introducing the Big Shots

Fotomat Custom Series 35 photo print processing

Vintage Fotomat site in 1984

Fotomat store in 1984

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Comments on this story

2 Responses

  1. There was a kiosk at Century Plaza in Frankfort Ky that had a bee on it. The bee was holding a camera. I would love any pics of this. Maybe the whole building was shaped like a bee? Photo bee or film bug?

  2. I always thought Fotomats were really cool, and I always looked forward to going with my dad to drop off and pick up photos. But they started going by the wayside in the 1980s as drug stores and grocery stores started offering 1-hour photo development. Plus there were lots of stories of Fotomats getting robbed (a single person with cash in an isolated location makes for an enticing target). The website features an interactive map of remaining Fotomat booths (spoiler alert: there aren’t many); also, Google “abandoned fotomat booths” for plenty of pictures.

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