pennsauken 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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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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