Date of Visit: April 20, 2013
I was pumped when we decided we would take the hour and a half drive up to Orefield, PA to attend the movies at Shankweiler’s Drive-In. My adventures to visit other (open) drive-ins outside of Delsea DI were really happening!!
Shankweiler‘s is the longest-running theater in America – it opened on April 15, 1934 and has been in continuous operation since. Impressive (and quite awesome) to say the least. Shankweiler’s was actually the 2nd drive-in to open in the United States, following the original Camden Drive-In in NJ (…that will be a blog in the near future). Unlike the Camden DI, however, Shankweiler’s has managed to survive!
When they first opened, Shankweiler’s used sound projected from a speaker near the screen. As inventions and technology advanced, Shankweiler’s added speaker poles and car speakers in 1948. As far as sound goes, the use of an AM station occurred in 1982, and then finally the advancement to FM frequency in 1986 (the year I was born!). FM radio is the current sound projection used by Shankweiler’s, as it seems to be with the majority of DI theaters I have researched.
I found it interesting to learn about Shankweiler’s screen… originally it was a simple sheet, stretched out. Then it was a “shadow box” or small screen. However, in 1955 a rough hurricane (I shall not speak her name!) destroyed the screen and projection booth. That same year, a new screen was built, as well as a projection booth/concession stand/restroom location. The screen and building for projections/concessions/bathrooms in 2013 is the same from 1955. In case you didn’t figure it out, Shankweiler’s has one screen. According to drive-ins.com and a few other sites, about 300 cars is the capacity.
- My Visit
Showtime was 8:15 pm, and we arrived at 6:39 pm (according to my camera). As we came to the stoplight at Rt 309 and Shankweiler Rd, the Neon Sign across the street had me fumbling with my camera for a good shot. I was bouncing in the passenger seat, anticipating the view of the entrance. As we made the left-hand turn, the back of the screen and entrance marquee was prominently in view. I mean, you can’t miss the place! We pulled over and parked right outside to get some photos – crossed the street to the neon sign, and then back over so we could enter the theater.
When we pulled in, only about 3 cars were parked already. Since we are a “high vehicle” we had to park between the yellow poles. After 3 tries, we found our perfect spot. Blankets and pillows were arranged, and then I started snapping pictures.
I liked that there was gravel for driving and grass for parking, delineating the spots and allowing a bit more comfort if you chose to sit outside the car. I did see one girl jumping rope before the movies, and a couple of families setting up chairs.
The concession stand had the basics – hot dogs, burgers, popcorn, goobers, and other candy assortments. An entrance on both sides of the building allows customers to get their food easily, regardless of their parking destination. My hot dog was perfect, the large soda was GIANT, and the popcorn was yummy.
I have to say it was VERY COLD that night. Even under sleeping bags and 2 blankets I felt the chill. Definitely not a night to sit outside, and also might be the reason for a smaller attendance rate. It was also the first weekend they were open so word might not have gotten out yet. Let’s face it, not everyone is receiving weekly newsletters or checking websites a few times a week! Regardless, it was a great night.
I had a chance to speak with Susan, one of the owners, before the first movie. What a sweet person! According to their 70 Years pamphlet, Susan and her husband have been part of the Shankweiler establishment since 1971 and then purchased the theater in 1984. Susan shared that they have several, non-local families that visit each year.
Shankweiler’s is truly a great place to visit, enjoy a couple movies, and create your own drive-in memories. Check it out!
4540 Shankweiler Road
Orefield, PA 18069
Some additional photos…