new jersey drive-in theater

Pennsauken Drive-In (Closed, NJ)

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History:

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.

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Standing at the back of the drive-in, you can easily see how the gravel forms the lanes to drive to the parking spots.

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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).

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Projection Booth (Center of Lot)

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Concession Stand (Back Center of Lot)

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Part is most likely bathroom tile…

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…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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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Sources:

 

Pennsauken Drive-In 2323 New Jersey 73 Pennsauken, NJ

Pennsauken Drive-In
2323 New Jersey 73
Pennsauken, NJ

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Fly-In Drive-In Theater (Wall Township, NJ) – Closed

History:

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.

Our Visit:

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.

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Wall Township Fly In Drive In

Fly-In Drive-In 1675 New Jersey 34 Wall Township, NJ 07727

Besides the Seagrave book, these two articles were helpful and interesting:

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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The Ultimate Drive-In Night

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.

Dan proposed!

     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.

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On the screen!!

The Proposal on the screen!!

Pictures, before the movie and proposal…

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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