drive-in theater

Look Closely…

Look closely and you’ll see a glimpse of the past. Photo: September 1, 2017.
Shore Drive-In, Ocean City,  MD. 

Check out the link for the marquee minus the foliage!

http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/11088
See previous post for full details on this drive -in! 

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Shore Drive-In (Closed, MD)

Our Visit (November 2014):

We love to take day-trips and have surprise date days. One of these took us to Assateague Island State Park and Ocean City, Maryland. As always, I saw an opportunity to visit an abandoned drive-in! In this case it was Ocean City’s Shore Drive-In Theatre, a couple miles off the island.

 

There was a bit of traffic, but we knew the general area of the marquee. After we parked an got out on foot to explore, I couldn’t help but think about the tourists visiting Ocean City. Hundreds – maybe more – passed the marquee covered in tangled weeds and plants without a second glance.

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Red, green, and white stripes were still visible along the 2 sides of the marquee, but the rest was mere rusted metal. Where words once announced the featured films, only bars remained. Looking underneath, you can see the wires and connections that once held bright white lights to illuminate the marquee.

 

Beyond the marquee there was so much more to be seen! Even after almost 40 years, nature, the elements, and vandals could not completely destroy visible remnants of the drive-in.

Various building pieces remained – a wooden structure that lay crumbled on its side, the ticket booth, speaker poles with torn bases, and the screen. The screen is always my favorite piece of a drive-in that has been left behind. Their resilience amazes me.

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The screen held a large lattice of wooden pieces as the backing. Larger slats of wood lay across the lattice horizontally where the movies once shone. Vines and trees intertwined with the lattice. My favorite piece of the screen was the ladder in the back, against one of the wooden poles, leading to the screen.

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Everything was very overgrown, but it was manageable to navigate. As always – be careful, be considerate, and do not leave any physical imprint.

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History:

The Shore Drive-In Theatre opened in 1954 and lasted for 22 years, closing in 1976. The Salisbury Times has advertisements starting in 1954 through ’76. In March of 1956, the Baltimore Sun reported that the court ruled the drive-in must be closed on Sundays.

 

Besides this bit of information, I could not find the owners/operators of the theatre, why it closed, or the types of movies it ran. Several people online reported that there was a flea market on the property after it closed. The property is currently for sale as a commercial property, listed for $800,000.

 

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Shore Drive-In:                                                         11906 Ocean Gateway, Ocean City, MD 21842

 

 

Shore Drive-In (Closed, NJ)

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…

History:

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.

 

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Shore Drive-In, 5001 New Jersey 33, Wall Township, NJ 07727

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.

 

Point 3 Drive-In (Open, PA)

Our Visit (September 21, 2015):

This was our first drive-in theater where we were allowed to, and brought!, our dog, Max! Needless to say, I was excited about his aspect right from the start. I had seen photos of drive-ins with tail-wagging dogs in the background, but had yet to experience this side of the drive-in. We made a night of our trip – visiting Centralia, PA to explore a Weird Pennsylvania article location, drove by the Laurel Drive-In in Hazleton, PA (post to come eventually – we went there the previous year!), and went to the Point 3 Drive-In.

We arrived early so I could take photos of the outside pieces – marquee, back of the main screen, drive-way…the usual. The Point 3 has old ticket booths at the tree border, marking the entrance. The ticket booths are no longer used, but serve a taste of nostalgia. As you pass through the ticket booths (overhand present!), the block of pine trees to your left clear out to expose the expansive drive-in.

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Following the drive-way, cars approach the back end of the snack bar. This serves as the ticket booth, advertised by a neon sign. Our screen (#3) was to our far right. Both Screen 2 and 3 lots are covered in grass. When we first came in, I wondered about parking for the movie. Lanes nor spacers were marked – only the slight incline for optimal viewing indicated the parking locations. I needn’t worry – my husband chose a perfect spot, and it was not overly crowded (yes…a wedding over the summer kept me away from blogging!).

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Max and I explored the grounds while Dan set up the back of the jeep with the blankets, pillows, etc. Max was drawn towards the snack-bar (of course), but no dogs allowed inside. We saw an elevated seating area, with overhead coverage, next to the snack bar, and some picnic benches on the other side. There was a slide and play-set to the left of Screen 1, which is always neat to see (I think it really shows the focus on children and families!).

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Our food was good – typical snack-bar snacks. The soda was self-serve, a first I had seen at a drive-in. Our movies were good – “Pixels” and “Trainwreck” – the adult movie set out of the three screen choices. Most cars left after “Pixels,” but then again, most of the cars had children.

All in all, it was a fun evening and we were glad to be there for their last night of the season!

 

History:

The Point 3 Drive-In was originally called the Arrow Drive-In Theatre, opening between 1952 and 1953 in Danville, Pennsylvania. According to Billboard (June 21, 1952), the drive-in opened in summer of 1952. Harold E. Bell opened the drive-in with the help of Allied Booking and Buying Service. By September 13, 1952, Billboard reported that new lamps were installed at the drive-in. By May 30, 1953, Bell resigned from his other theater management position at College Theater in Bethlehem to manage the Arrow Drive-In. Bell seemed to have been a theater advocate, being a manager of regular Berwick theaters up until 1950, and also a salesman of Perkins Theatre Supply Co from 1952-55.

The name change timeframe is uncertain, occurring sometime between 1955 and 1958. The Theatre Catalog lists the drive-in as the Arrow Drive-In in 1955, and the Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures lists the drive-in as the Point Drive-In in 1958. While running under the name of Arrow Drive-In, the theater had one screen. This continued through 1966 at least (via Historic Aerials). By 1993, historic aerials seems to show 3 screens.

David Renn is the current owner and has been for the past 27 years (Renn, in person, 9/21/2015). Prior to Renn it seems that Cinecom Theatre ran the Point, after Comerford Theaters was in charge and sold out to them in the late 1960s. Looking into these theater companies does not bring out any connections to the drive-in, although they are associated with local theaters.

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Point 3 Drive-In Theatre Route 11 & Northumberland-Da Hwy Danville, PA 17821

 

The First Drive-In Theatre (EVER!) – June 6, 1933

 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.

 

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Bengies Drive-In Theatre

Bengies Drive In

My Visit – August 10, 2013:

The Baltimore area is a fun place to visit, and once we found out about Bengies we decided to take a trip down. Luckily I did some research ahead of time because there are many rules for this particular drive-in.

One major thing you need to know about Bengies is they have a NO PHOTO policy anywhere on the property.

We arrived early and parked nearby. We walked around the property to get a feel for the size and a glimpse of what we would see later that night. I did snap some photos from the outside, mainly because I wanted to share an image to show the screen size.

Bengies DI - back of screen Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In

As you enter the drive-in, you will immediately notice the barrage of signs warning you of the various rules for the property. It was a bit intimidating and overwhelming – one of those times where you feel guilty even though you are completely innocent! I knew there would be signs ahead of time, thanks to Mod Betty and retroroadmap.com (blog post: http://retroroadmap.com/spot/its-drive-in-movie-season-maryland-new-york-and-pennsylvania/, specific picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modbetty/4630018820/).

Entering the theater grounds (aside from the signs) is very pleasant. Besides the ticket booth, there was also a greeter near the concession stand, directing cars and wishing them a good night at the drive-in.

We parked in the center and a few rows back from the screen. The concession stand was very busy, with two sides servicing customers. The food was good; nothing sticks out as being an amazing food choice.  They have a lot of merchandise for sale, which made me excited to add to my t-shirt collection. Unfortunately they did not have my top 2 choices and I had to settle for my 3rd choice. I waited awhile for service to buy the t-shirt, since I had to go to a separate register from the food line. Also, the workers behind the counter weren’t visibly happy. At all. Everyone seemed hurried and distracted.

Bengies shows three movies, starting with the lowest rated. So we watched Smurfs 2, followed by Grown Ups 2. Due to our drive home we did not stay for movie #3. I was disappointed because Grown Ups 2 was listed as the third movie in the program, but the marquee had it listed as #2…

Several things about this theater bothered me, one being the talking over the credits. As soon as the end music and credits began, there was a person talking over the movie giving announcements. I found it distracting, unnecessary, and pushy for it to immediately begin at the credits. He (the announcer) also repeatedly mentions the rules during these announcements.

In-between the 2 movies, we turned the car on to keep the battery from fading. Honestly, I do not understand how this works or why, but it is something Dan has taught me and we always do at Delsea for a couple minutes. Immediately, a worker came over and told us to turn off the car to prevent CO2 emissions. Hm.

Overall, I am glad we visited Bengies – it has a large screen, vintage memorabilia and cars, kind greeters, a playground for children, and is one of the last drive-ins in the area. However, I don’t need to go back to this one. I feel it was more profit-based instead of maximizing the experience of the drive-in. Since visiting several other drive-ins, I prefer the latter.

History/Information:
According to bengies.com, the theatre opened on June 6, 1956. They just closed their 58th season running – quite incredible! Three brothers named Jack, Paul, and Hank Vogel built the theater. Jack Vogel was the architect and designed this theater, as well as several others in the US. Interestingly, the drive-in was named after Benjamin Harrison (former president) because the area used to be known as Bengies, MD. D. Edward Vogel is the current owner and operator of the drive-in.

The screen is 52′ x 120′ and Bengies quotes itself as having the biggest screen in the USA. I have found a contradiction to this statement, since the Capri Drive-In (Coldwater, MI) lists its screen as 150’ x 75’.

The current marquee is not the original. The first marquee had an apostrophe between the e and s. There is a story about the apostrophe, which can be found in the City Paper link below. The current marquee was put up in the 1970s and did not use the apostrophe. Speakers were present up until at least 1998.

Bengies Drive In

Bengies Drive In Bengies Drive In

Information regarding the original builders, name, and marquee come from a 1998 article in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/movies/features/bengiesfacts.htm.

Interesting tid-bits about Bengies:

Bengies Drive In - Google Maps

Bengies Drive-In Theater
3417 Eastern Blvd
Middle River, MD 21220

Tacony-Palmyra Drive-In (NJ – Closed with Remains)

My Visit – 1/12/13:

January 12 was our “drive-in hopping” day. We visited 4 former drive-in sites that day! This had the easiest access since it is open and operates as an outdoor flea market.  As you pull into the driveway you meet the marquee, a ticket booth, and another small building.

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We passed by, with Dan’s encouragement for me to park first and then we could walk over (I was driving that day). We turned left towards the drive-in lot and parked in the back lane. Funny, when we actually go to watch movies we sit towards the middle. 😉

We walked around a chain-link fence to get back to the ticket booth and other building. First, let me say it is awesome that those who own the property have left these buildings. Whether it is for nostalgia, aesthetics, or cheaper than tearing them down, I’m happy they were there!

The ticket booth advertises the hours of the flea market, boosted a foot above the drive-way on a curb. The bottom part is made of brick, while the rest of the booth is cement. Similar to the Delsea Drive-In (Vineland, NJ), it seems that cars could approach the booth from either side to purchase their tickets for the evening, and this is confirmed from a photo taken in 1985 (seen at the end of this post). Current access to the flea market is on the right side only.

 

Tacony Palmyra DI Ticket Booth Entrance

Tacony Palmyra DI Ticket Booth Entrance 2 Tacony Palmyra DI Ticket Booth

An interesting tidbit is a metal piece found in the ground, to the left of the ticket booth. The name across the center is “Electro-Matic.” There is also a metal box atop a pole to the left of the Electro-Matic. With some quick research, it seems that the Electro-Matic and empty metal panel was part of a traffic-control system. These are usually used for automated traffic control, such as traffic lights and railroad systems. The earliest print ad I was able to find was 1954, putting it in the timeframe of the drive-in.  However, the ad does not depict the empty panel present at the drive-in. The panel seemed to hold several light bulbs. When discussing what I discovered with my boyfriend, he suggested that there might have been an automated gate that would rise when a car released the sensor. Another thought was that the Electro-Matic signaled a light for the ticket-seller to know someone was present. These are just guesses, of course. I have not found any concrete evidence of its use. 

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The original concession stand still stands and is still in use! You can purchase the usual quick-bite food, pass through the turnstile, and then use the restroom along the side of the building! (*Note: The concession was not open when we went, but I have read numerous posts where people talk about getting food inside.) 

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The projection booth still stands as well, with peeling paint and an overall decrepit appearance.

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Individual car speakers were invented and in use by the time this drive-in opened in 1957. However, there is a tall tower towards the back center of the lot. When I first visited I assumed the drive-in was older and used the projection sound. However, my guess would be a lighting system. (Segrave, K., “Drive-In Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933,” 1992.)

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Finally – the grading of the now parking lot is a testament to what the place represents for many people. What used to be parking for the movie now is used for parking for the flea market, as well as space for the vendors. Take a look at the aerial view and there is no doubt what used to be here.

Although the screens are no longer standing, it was really neat to see the remnants of the Tacony-Palmyra Drive-In.

[Some] History/Information:

The Tacony-Palmyra Drive-In Theatre opened in 1957. Shortly after (date unknown) another drive-in opened no more than 6 minutes down the road (Pennsauken Drive-In). Drive-ins were highly popular in the 50s and 60s, then started to decline. One person has posted that the drive-in was open in 1954 because of a movie listed on the marquee; however, I have not found any evidence of it opening prior to 1957. The movie being shown later is quite possible since drive-ins were not given priority or rights to “A-list” movies when they were released.

The Tacony-Palmyra Drive-In was at the base of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, that connects New Jersey to Pennsylvania (specifically, Philadelphia). This allowed easy access for residents of both states (although PA had plenty of drive-ins as well!). The drive-in had two screens at the end, but began as a single-screen theatre.

National Amusements owned the drive-in and added the flea market towards the end of the drive-in run. The drive-in closed in 1986, but the flea market has continued on ever since. There was a short closure of the flea market when WWII shells were discovered underground in 2008.

The screens were taken down at some point after 1998 since the following article says that they were present when the article was written (http://archives.citypaper.net/articles/071698/cover.side.shtml).

Check out this site for some historic photos of the area, including two photos from the Tacony-Palmyra Drive-In: http://cglen.com/SendIns/PREV/200911/PSJ_110709.htm/

TP DI - August 1985

Tacony Palmyra Drive In – August 1985

Tacony Palmyra Drive In - August 1985

Tacony Palmyra Drive In – August 1985

Tacony-Palymra Drive-In
201 Route 73
Palmyra, NJ

Moonlite Drive-In (Closed)

Date of Visit: May 31, 2013

On our way to Ricketts Glen State Park for a weekend of camping and waterfalls, Dan and I decided to make a few stops along the way north. His choice: Cabela’s in Hamburg, PA. My choice: an abandoned drive-in of course!

The night before we left I checked my normal sites for information and Google mapped to see which drive-in was close and had visible remains. The Moonlite DI was the winner! (I found the approximate address through cinematreasures.org.)

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Marquee on Shoemaker Avenue

Dan was driving and I was hastily searching my GPS to find where exactly the entrance would be located. In the meantime our conversation went as follows:

Me: I can’t tell from the map! We have to be right here but I’m not sure where to stop… (looking at my phone).

Dan: What was it called?

Me: The Moonlite.

Dan: Well, that sign just said “Moonlite,” I’m going to guess that’s it.

Yup…I’m thankful he is so observant!

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The light bulbs are still there on the Moonlite sign!

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The entrance ended up being directly next to the Marquee, and it seems to be part of a driveway for a house. We parked by the ticket booth and began exploring on foot.

Entrance Road and Ticket Booth of the Moonlite DI

Entrance Road and Ticket Booth of the Moonlite DI


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Unfortunately it was very hot and very buggy, which affected the time I spent discovering and examining the remains of the Moonlite. From my web research of the Moonlite, several people have found interesting remains left behind: several different signs, projectors, & tickets. I did not notice any of these artifacts, but do not be disheartened! The vegetation growth was overwhelming – there could have been pieces of the drive-in hidden beneath the brush.

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The Concession Stand and Projection Booth (same building) looks a bit dilapidated. All windows and doors are boarded up and vines cover the walls. The two doors in the front of the concession stand were not shut or locked but I was too afraid of negative repercussions of investigating inside.

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View of the Concession Stand coming from the ticket booth, facing the screen.

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Open Doors of the Concession Stand

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A neat piece of the concession stand, found lying on the ground.

Speaker poles were present throughout the property. Some were merely poles, others had the holder for speakers. Here are two shots of the speakers, covered with grass and brush.

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If you’d like to see some neat photos from another blogger, I stumbled across this site: http://cherisundra.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-the-moonlite-drive-in/. My personal favorite photo comes from this flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hankrogers/5857785765/.

[Some] History:

From what I have gathered, the Moonlite opened in the 1950s and closed in the 1980s. It survived past the large decline of the 1970s but not by much. It was a single screen theater.

Since its closure, the property has attempted several sales to no avail. The Rizzo family, current landowners and last operators of the drive-in, have a suit against the county in regards to the sewer system installed. I was unable to find out the result of that suit or if it is still in the process. However, complaints about the drainage pipes go back to at least August 1997 (Council reports).

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Aerial View of the Moonlite Drive-In site.

Moonlite Drive-In

Closed

1190 Shoemaker Avenue

West Wyoming, PA 18644

My First Drive-In Night

September 2010 was a fantastic month for me and one of those reasons was my first visit to a drive-in movie. Delsea Drive-In, in Vineland, NJ.

Before this I had never known they still existed! Drive-in theaters sounded like an old-time conversation piece my mom would have been excited to discuss. So when my now-boyfriend (he asked me out later that night!) and friends wanted to have a drive-in hang out, I was a bit curious.

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That curiosity changed to pure excitement when we arrived – pulling up to the ticket booth behind a load of cars, getting my first glance of the screens. We received our “ticket,” which was a folded paper with the movies, FM channels per screen, and a menu for the concessions.

We parked at Screen #2, unloaded chairs and set-up around the cars. Photos were snapped, food was bought, and bottoms were settled into chairs for the first movie. It was chilly as we sat outside, so we also bundled ourselves under blankets.

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The intermission screen glowed with dancing hot dogs, popcorn, and sodas, encouraging the viewers to frequent the concession stand. I remember that we had pizza that night, among other snacks.

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After the 2nd movie we headed back towards home, and I was hooked. I had to go back, and I wanted to experience watching the movies in the car (back of the car to be exact – blankets, pillows, hatchback…;-). I was on Cloud 9 and haven’t come back down yet. ♥