pennsylvania drive in theaters

Mahoning Drive-In (Open – PA)

IMG_4595History

The Mahoning Drive-In Theatre opened in 1949 and continues operation today! Bethlehem Steel constructed the 105-foot Cinemascope screen in 1948.

The ownership or management is a bit spotty – but thanks to Billboard, the user NeonMichael on Cinematreasures.org, and the author of www.carload.com, I have a general idea:

  • 1949: Opened. Operated by Max Korr, Mitchell Rappaport and Shirer. A.M. Ellis also took up 50% interest in to the Mahoning (Ellis Theaters of New Jersey). Ellis operated drive-ins in New Jersey.
  • 1956: Owned by Ellis Theatres
  • 1952: Joseph J. Humphries and R. C. H. Becker Sr
  • 1963-66: Claude Reinhard
  • 1978: Riant Entp
  • 1980-82: J. Morgan
  • 1982-1998: Amos Theaters Inc (Joseph Farruggio)
  • ? – 2013: Owned by Mike and Deb Danchak, who also own the nearby Angel Theatre in Coaldale.
  • 2014-present: Jeff Mattox
    • July 2014: Added Matt McClanahan and Virgil Cardamone

 

Over the years, the car capacity increased gradually to eventually reach the current capacity of approximately 900 cars.

In 2013, Mike and Deb Danchak closed the theatre for the season on September 8. This was the time the movie industry announced they would be switching film from 35mm to digital – with no more than one year left for possible 35mm films available for current movies.

A digital projector was a pricey investment. A bamboozler – Glen Brannon – took advantage of the drive-ins difficulties and reached out to Mike Danchak about saving the theater. There was a major fundraising effort to fix-up the drive-in. Volunteers came to the drive-in and painted the projection booth, for example. There was an online fundraising page to raise money for the projector and other needed improvements. Depending on the amount you donated, you were able to receive a gift of some kind. I remember seeing the opportunity to buy carload passes for the upcoming season as well. Personally, I donated money in hopes to keep the theater alive and running! Brannon headed all of these processes, with the promise of updating and revitalizing the Mahoning DI.

However, Brannon turned out to be a swindler. He had dealings with several other theaters and you will be hard pressed to find a positive piece of information about Brannon. See the given links at the end of this post for information about Brannon.

Jeff Mattox took over the drive-in in 2014 and for a brief stint, renamed the theater as “Big Pocono Outdoor Theater.” He managed the Mahoning from 2001-2007, and part of the 2010 season, prior to returning as the new owner. On July 22, 2014, Mattox officially added McClanahan and Cardamone (Mahoning FB page).

For the 2014 season, the Mahoning continued to show first-run movies from the companies that would provide 35mm films. Per a Facebook post on March 17, 2014, Jeff initially believed the Mahoning would need to purchase a digital projector to continue into the 2015 season. However, the Mahoning switched to nostalgic movies for the 2015 season and continues today. You also have the option to camp if you are interested.

As quoted from the official Mahoning Drive-In website: “We offer an exclusively retro 35mm film program, which is presented reel-to-reel via original 1940’s Simplex projectors! Our goal; to deliver you a true love of film, and the nostalgic movie going experience you can only get at the drive-in!”

 

Our Visit (September 14, 2013)

Our stop at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater was a double hit – we had a movie night at Laurel Drive-In Theater (35 minutes away), but also stopped by the Mahoning for a brief photo shoot!

The Mahoning Drive-In had closed for the season the previous weekend, but we still wanted to see the property. I was instantly excited by the beautiful marquee – the red arrow directing patrons was eye-catching and gorgeous. Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned drive-in marquee?IMG_4597

We approached the drive-in property – you can see the screen as you drive down Seneca Road. Mahoning DI has a fun entrance with ticket booth and overhand introducing the theatre. The left side was blocked with a chain, and based on the tracks on the ground, has not been used in quite some time. Regardless, you could easily picture two rows of cars lined up for a night of movies!

A small building seemed to be the location for tickets, not far past the original ticket booth. (Further research showed this to be true, but the current owners use the original ticket booth!)

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Inside the theater, there is a paved roadway for the entrance and to the exit, as well as around the projection booth. The car parking/viewing area was covered in grass. The projection booth was standard concrete, white with colored polka dots. There were openings for the projector to project the movies onto the large CinemaScope screen.

The screen is always one of my favorite aspects to photograph. Along the top of the screen, there was either speakers or lights. Under and slightly behind the screen was a small building. I’m unsure the purpose, but photographed it anyway.

Finally, the EXIT sign guided us off the property for the day. Random side note, we took our photos of the marquee on our way out.

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There were a few piles of trash around the property – not too unusual for older theaters.

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Mahoning Drive-In Theatre

635 Seneca Rd

Lehighton, PA 18235

 

 

References and Further Reading:

Official Website: http://mahoningdit.com/

News articles on Brannon: http://www.route66news.com/2012/06/18/who-is-the-teepee-drive-ins-new-operator/, http://www.route66news.com/2013/05/11/teepee-drive-ins-former-operator-resurfaces-in-pennsylvania/, http://wnep.com/2013/05/10/excitement-turns-to-concern-for-drive-in-trying-to-stay-open/

Article on new owners: http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/movies/20150717_Temple_grads_run__open-air_nostalgia_palace__drive-in_theater.html

www.carload.com

http://www.cinematreasures.org

Big Pocono Outdoor Theater FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/bigpocono/

Article about documentary film on the Mahoning DI: http://republicanherald.com/news/documentary-to-tell-story-of-mahoning-drive-in-1.2252034

 

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Boulevard Drive-In (Allentown, PA) – Closed

Our Visit (2014):

On one of our day road trips we wound up in Allentown area. Per usual, I decided to check up on any possible drive-in remains and found the former Boulevard Drive-In! It was easy to find – driving along Union Boulevard you could see the screen set back, facing the boulevard. After another drive-by we found a spot to pull over.

 

It was apparent that construction was under way, but at the time we didn’t know the purpose. There were various tractors, construction fencing, and wooden markers for the paving that was underway. A beautiful new building was set in the back-center of the lot, and some paving was started around the building, and circling towards the drive-in screen.

That’s right – the drive-in screen! It was still standing tall, even with some minor damage. As we left I was just hoping that the new construction would keep the screen in the design.

History:

The Boulevard Drive-In opened on October 19, 1949. Owned and operated by Milgram Theaters, the Boulevard paved the way for all drive-ins!

 

In 1950 David Milgram brought a suit against the 8 major film companies because they would not grant access for first-run films to drive-ins. Two of the companies, RKO and Fox, offered second-run films (28 days after the indoor cinemas had the films), but Milgram was not satisfied. In a Philadelphia court, Milgram won the suit. The film companies appealed twice, including to the US Supreme Court in May 1952, but they refused to hear the appeal.

 

In 1950, the drive-in worked with Station WAAB to include live shows as entertainment at the drive-in. In May of that year, the Sleepy Hollow Ranch Gang had two scheduled performances. According to Wikipedia, the drive-in also had a children’s play area in front of the screen with various playground equipment.

 

The drive-in had many prosperous years, but closed in the 1980s. I was unable to find an exact date, but one user posted on cinematreasures.org that they remember attending in 1984. For photos from 1988 – including the marquee, screen, ticket booths, and projection booth visit http://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/13063.html.

 

The drive-in has since been converted to a class car showcase. Known as the Allentown Class Motor Car showcase, it is owned by Nicola Bulgari. This jeweler wanted to have a place to show and drive his classic cars. Visit Here for details from the architect.

 

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Boulevard Drive-In

556 Union Boulevard

Allentown, PA

 

 

 

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 this 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