…like when you park behind the abandoned Pennsauken Drive-In Theatre when you go out to dinner 😁😁😁😁😁
…like when you park behind the abandoned Pennsauken Drive-In Theatre when you go out to dinner 😁😁😁😁😁
Our Visit: January 2014
On a day off in January 2014, Dan and I took a road trip north to try and find a few drive-ins. Our luck was high, because we were able to visit 2 former drive-in sites. The Shore Drive-In and Fly-In Drive-In were 4.4 miles apart on Rt. 34 in Wall Township.
The downfall of our visit was that it had snowed prior to our visit, making it difficult to capture pictures of what remained for the Shore Drive-In. The site is not easily accessible, especially in the snow.
There are many speaker poles remaining, outlining the parking spaces and lanes for driving.
In addition to the speaker poles, there were two building remains. It is hard to ascertain the buildings’ purposes from my memory (2 years ago!) and the snow. I believe the red bricks were from the projection booth. The other I am not so sure…
On May 12, 1948, the Shore Drive-In of Farmingdale*, NJ opened with the support and praise of various local businesses and residents. The Asbury Park Press newspaper (May 11, 1948) is littered with advertisements congratulating the Eastern Drive In Theatre Corporation on the opening of the Shore Drive-In. Supporters included Bell Supply Co, Drive-In Refreshments, Thomas Nicol Co, Jersey State Electric, Franklin Engineering, Monmouth Lumber Co, Anchor Post Fence Co, and many more.
Most notable was the support and recognition from the Park-In Theatre Company. The Park-In Theatre Company was Hollinghead’s company, the original creator of the Drive-In Theater. The Shore Drive-In was covered and license under the Hollingshead Patent for drive-ins.
Some interesting features for this drive-in included complementary bottle warming for mothers with young babies, in addition to the usual amenities offered by drive-ins.
Research of Eastern Drive In Theatre Corporation and James J. Thompson (owner) led to very little, except that they owned and operated several other NJ drive-ins including the Union DI (where the original moved after 3 years), Morris Plains DI and Totowa DI. However, the corporation and drive-in search did connect to Wilfred P. Smith.
Wilfred P. Smith was the general manager for Eastern Drive-In Corporation through 1950, having a hand in all of the beginning drive-ins in New Jersey, including the Shore Drive-In. He obviously took pride in the presentation and reputation of the drive-in, for he is quoted saying they were “striving for another NJ State Garden Club award such as was presented to our Union Drive-In Theater last year for landscaping, beauty, safety and civic achievement for a business enterprise along a main highway” (Asbury Park Press, 1948).
Smith left Eastern Drive-In Corporation to open his own drive-in in Ledgewood, and subsequently the Newton Drive-In. Although I was unable to find a lot of history on the Shore Drive-In, I was excited to be introduced to Wilfred P. Smith and his pioneering efforts. Hopefully he enjoyed the retired life, and his memory will live on in the drive-in world.
The Shore Drive-In closed sometime after 1979. The screen was demolished in 2001.
Some more great photos: http://drive-ins.com/gallery/njtshor/shore-drive-in-theater-farmingdale-nj
*Depending on where you get your information, the Shore Drive-In may be listed as Collingwood Park, Wall Township, or Farmingdale. It was near Asbury Park, but not in that town.
The Pennsauken Drive-In Theatre opened between 1965-1967 (historic aerials do not have the drive-in shown in 1965, but it is there for 1967). Built by the Fox family of Fox Theatre Company out of Philadelphia, the same company that also built the Bridgeton DI, Wildwood DI, Super 130 DI, among a few in Pennsylvania as well.
Budco, another big name in theaters at the time, managed the Pennsauken Drive-In. In 1977, the state sued Budco for showing murder and nudity on screen (which could be seen from the highway).
As with many other drive-ins, it has been difficult to locate the exact year the Pennsauken DI stopped operating. News clippings show that the theatre was still running in 1980. However, a January 8, 1987 article from philly.com shows that AMC was planning on building an indoor cinema on the site, indicating the drive-in had been closed.
My Visit – 1/21/13
The Pennsauken Drive-In Theatre is one of the former drive-ins that you can see today – very easily! The screen and lot are wide-open and can be seen while driving on Rt. 73 in New Jersey. The back of the screen can also be seen on Rt. 90 right before/after the Betsy Ross Bridge.
When we took photos and visited the site, it was easy to navigate. Besides around the screen, the lot is not overgrown like most abandoned drive-ins. We parked in the church’s lot and walked over. At the end of the parking lot were a couple old poles and outlets from the drive-in time period.
Standing at the back of the drive-in, you can easily see how the gravel forms the lanes to drive to the parking spots.
It was hard to tell, and writing this 2 years after the fact of visiting, it is hard to remember exactly the location and purpose of the remains in my photos. One section of ground remains for the projection booth (center of the lot) and another section remains from the concession stand (center, back of lot).
Part is most likely bathroom tile…
…and other could be flooring for various areas in the concession stand and/or projection booth. There is cement, red tile, and tile imprints on the ground and cement. I thought it would be relatively easy to locate the company that made the tiles since I found information printed on the back; however, I could not determine the maker.
Trees surround the screen, but none have left damage. There are rust stains on the boards that make up the screen, and metal bars support it from behind.
There were two tall lights, as well, on the drive-in lot. I’m not sure of the purpose, except as a light for the end of the movie.
Fifteen years after the first drive-in theater, Edward Brown decided to take things to the next level. On June 3, 1948, in Wall Township, NJ, the first-ever Fly-In Drive-In Theatre opened to cars and planes. That’s right, both cars and planes were able to enjoy this outdoor movie theater.
Ed Brown operated an airport on the same property and would allow about 15-25 planes (accounts vary) to taxi to the back of the theater grounds. To return to the landing strip, a Jeep would tow the planes.
Ed Brown seemed like a firecracker, as well as a major businessman, community leader, and innovator. Ed Brown purchased the land in 1938 and bulldozed everything with a WWI tank. Besides the airport and fly-in drive-in theater, the land also included a quarry, golf range, amusement park, playground…
If you are searching for information on this drive-in theater, many addresses many yield results: Allenwood, Belmar, Farmingdale, Asbury Park, Wall Township, Neptune Township. The first four towns are part of what is now Wall Township, and Neptune Township is next door. In “Drive-In Theaters: A History from their Inception in 1933,” Kerry Seagrave has Belmar as a separate fly-in drive-in theatre, but many public comments and other articles make them one in the same.
I have been unable to find a closing date for the drive-in. 1953 Historical Aerials shows the drive-in, and in 1963 it still looks “alive.” However, the next option, 1970, it is clearly no longer in use.
In 2006, Ed Brown passed away. The airport and surrounding land is now Monmouth Executive Airport.
There were many spots to take photos, including the former ticket booth, concession stand and projection booth, as well as the base of the screen.
Besides the Seagrave book, these two articles were helpful and interesting:
The Absecon Drive-In is one of the reasons I will drive the White Horse Pike all the way to Atlantic City instead of taking the AC Expressway. Driving by the partial screen makes me smile (and often slow down a bit) every time.
The Walter Reade Theater Company built the Absecon Drive-In. They were a big theater company in and around New Jersey, building both indoor cinemas and drive-ins. Originally based out of Asbury Park, NJ, Walter Reade, followed by his son Walter Reade, Jr., opened the Absecon Drive-In in 1955. The historic aerials offers a neat view from 1957. According to Billboard Magazine (April 1955), the Absecon Drive-In was set to open on Decoration Day (http://books.google.com/books?id=BhwEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA73&lpg=PA73&dq=absecon+drive-in+theater+1955&source=bl&ots=T31dXFofJR&sig=9NAR-gFmjD4oa37LwIjhGW7lASY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OTY7VP7gCNeiyAT68oJA&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=absecon%20drive-in%20theater%201955&f=false)…although “Decoration Day” is not a holiday I’m familiar with, nor could I figure out what it celebrated!
In 1964 Frank Theaters purchased the Absecon Drive-In (Source: email with Bruce Frank, CEO of Frank Theaters). Mr. Frank said that the screen is made of masonry board and was painted white.
Several online sources state that Milgram Theaters owned the Absecon Drive-in in 1964. I will stick with my statement that Frank Theaters owned the drive-in: 1. Bruce Frank is my source. 2. Milgram theaters was locally based, but connected with Fox Theaters (not Walter Reade or the Franks).
The theater closed in 1983, according to public comments online.
My Experience (1/5/2013):
The Absecon Drive-In is directly off Route 30, aka the White Horse Pike. We parked at the gate that blocks the entrance road and snapped some photos from afar. I did not want to risk being questioned by authority, nor trek out through the weeds. Even though it is used as a storage site, numerous people have taken photos close, and it was once a drive-in, the area behind is a marsh (wetlands). I’d rather not sink!
Unfortunately my idea for the blog did not occur early enough for me to get photos pre- Hurricane Sandy. The screen suffered severe damage after the hurricane.
If you ever take the Atlantic City Line for NJ Transit you can also see the screen from the other side. That was neat to see a different view (and at a high speed).
The iconic white horse, which stood atop a tall tower has fallen down. The only remainder of the White Horse Pike Drive in has found its demise after a brief storm hit New Jersey last night.
For the past several days and I have been checking its direction to see if the horse spun/turned. There had been a comment on the blog asking about its movement. So tonight, on our way home, I asked Dan to tell me its direction. His response: it’s not there.
Please excuse the bad quality of pictures, I did not anticipate needing to take photos tonight. His rear legs are not attached anymore… that is the piece on the left side. He is currently next to the tower, in the Petsmart parking lot. So very sad….
7/26/14 UPDATE: The horse was taken down by crane. There was an article in the Courier Post today and a video on Facebook. Reason still unknown, but speculation lies in the possibility of harm with the rear legs falling.
The date: June 6, 1933.
The place: Pennsauken Township, NJ.
The person: Richard Milton Hollingshead, Jr.
The company: Park-In Theaters, Inc.
The event: The first drive-in theater – Automobile Movie Theatre – opened!
For me, June 6 is a special date because it is the original date of the drive-in!
Hollingshead actually applied for the patent for his drive-in on August 6, 1932, and was granted his patent on May 16, 1933. Before all this, Hollingshead was looking into creating something, not just heading up a business.
After several ideas, Hollingshead began testing out projecting a movie onto a screen and watching from a car. He did this in his backyard, putting the projector on the hood of his car, facing a sheet nailed to a tree. He even tried out bad weather options by putting on a sprinkler! Of course there were challenges, such as seeing past the car in front of you. However, with his own design of ramps and distance, to stagger the view, he was able to figure it all out.
Many accounts will say the drive-in was located in Camden, NJ; however, it was just over the border of Camden and in Pennsauken Township. The Automobile Move Theatre was close to Philadelphia and served many communities. One of the draw-ins was that you could watch a movie, even if you were obese! An ad from a newspaper showed a large woman trying to get to her seat in a theater, with a caption saying she would have no trouble at the drive-in.
Hollingshead’s drive-in did not last … either 1935 or 1936 (unsure of exact year) Hollingshead sold his theater and it “moved” to Union, NJ. Besides not getting a lot of profits, Hollingshead fought over his patent and other drive-ins that were opening. He was not receiving royalties from other drive-ins that were using his design. A few different court cases were brought up. Eventually, the US Supreme Court denied the petition. Hollingshead did receive some royalties, but the exact amount is unknown.
Our Visit (1/12/13):
Unfortunately, there aren’t any remains of the original drive-in. Here are some photos of the current location, but nothing special to show! For old photos of the first drive-in, check out the following links:
Also, if you are seriously interested in the history of the drive-ins, check out the book “Drive-In Theaters; a history from their inception in 1933” by Kerry Seagrave. It is loaded with facts and research covering any and all drive-in topic (that was my source for most of the information on this post!). “The American Drive-In Movie Theatre” by Don and Susan Sanders is a shorter text covering similar information if you want something less intense.
Well, this post is drive-in theater related, but is not the usual content!
On Saturday, April 26, Dan and I attended our first drive-in of the season (wooo! at Delsea. Since it was the first of the season, we invited family and friends…. and oddly enough, everyone wanted to go! Before the movie started we had 13 cars and 36 people! So much fun!
The real story happened during intermission, in-between the two movies…
“Hard to Concentrate” by Red Hot Chili Peppers began to play and up on the screen, where dancing popcorn and hot dogs usually appear, a slideshow began.
Although there were some technical difficulties, it was more than I ever could have imagined or dream of… it was beautiful. It was perfect.
So, as if the drive-in wasn’t already a memorable, meaningful, important, wonderful place in my life, it has now become even more special.
Pictures, before the movie and proposal…
My Visit – 12/30/12:
Although my first experience with drive-ins occurred on a date to the Delsea Drive-In, my intent interest, and eventual creation of this blog, began after passing by the abandoned Circus Drive-In in Mullica Township, NJ. To think that there were living footprints of drive-ins throughout the country, mere miles from my own home, was incredible.
The Circus Drive-In is visible from Rt. 30 (the White Horse Pike), if you look closely. The site has been overrun by trees and in the spring and winter; it can be difficult to spot the screen while speeding by. The screen is so close to the road! I have even taken to driving the White Horse Pike instead of the expressway to go to Atlantic City… all to pass this lone screen, standing still while time passes it by.
When we visited, it was very easy to navigate the grounds. Although many trees cover the property, the lines from the parking and driving have left easy trails. We found some cement blocks, most likely from speaker poles at one point in time. There is also some cement base – gray and red – from one of the buildings, presumingly the projection booth.
Although this drive-in site is not very different from others I have visited, and even has less visible remains than some, it was the beginning of my …well, obsession.
For the first time in my research I have had contact with an owner of a drive-in, even if that person was not in charge at that time! According to Bruce Frank, CEO of Frank Family Entertainment Group and President of Frank Theatres, the Circus Drive-In opened in 1954. His grandfather and father opened this drive-in in honor of Bruce’s sister being born. Some personal accounts online say the theater opened in 1953.
Some accounts talk about a giant circus clown marquee – unfortunately, I have not been able to locate a photograph of the marquee. Mr. Bruce Frank has said that he does not have any photos but will pass them along if he comes across any.
The Circus DI closed by 1979. 35 years later the drive-in still leaves its mark.
For some historical photos, visit: http://www.drive-ins.com/gallery/njtcirc/circus-drive-in-hammonton-nj. The public has uploaded photos from visits in present-day, as well as posters and tickets! Very neat to see.
Other photographs from my visit – I had a lot of fun that day and snapped all sorts of angles.
There are quite a few to browse, I hope you enjoy!
If ever there were a mystery to solve about a drive-in, the White-Horse Pike Drive-In would be it! I pass this location almost daily and am astonished at the lack of information available on this drive-in. Usually my searches lead to numerous hits, resulting in time-consuming sorting through of information. However, I have hit a roadblock, a blockade! Here is what I can tell you about the drive-in:
Okay, to sum it up:
White Horse Pike Drive-In Theater
Any additional information would be appreciated!
A huge thank you to John (http://www.flickr.com/photos/42444189@N04) – he provided the advertisements seen on this page. Check out his flickr page for local advertisements and photos.