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