drive-in theater

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

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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. ♥

Happy Opening Day!

Today is the day – the Delsea Drive-In, New Jersey’s only operating drive-in theater, OPENS! http://www.delseadrive-in.com/

Unfortunately, I will not be attending opening weekend due to prior engagements; however, I am excited for Drive-In season to begin. My next update will be about my very first trip to the drive-in… I can’t believe that was over 2 years ago!

Cheers to a great season!

Introduction

Delsea drive-in

My 1st drive-in visit: Delsea Drive-in (New Jersey)

September 2010. In the midst of being swept-off-my-feet by an amazing guy, he unknowingly introduced me to my new interest (obsession): the drive-in movie theater. On a group outing with some friends I attended my first drive-in movie and fell in love…

Flash-forward and it is 2 1/2 years later, April 2013. I now own 3 books about drive-ins, I have a bookmarked folder for websites/links, and a goal to visit as many drive-ins as I can. And not just drive-ins that are open, but those that have left remains behind.

This blog is a way for me to share my explorations, my findings, my enthusiasm.

Who knows…maybe you’ll catch some drive-in nostalgia too.