Pennsylvania

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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The Moonlite Comes Back to Life! (Opening Soon!)

For Christmas, I unwrapped my very own pair of drive-in speakers and stand! My husband came through with an amazing gift, and linked me to a fun Facebook page as well.

While browsing the recent posts, I came across some photos of the Moonlite Drive-In Theatre in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania – BEING RENOVATED! The Borough Council accepted the purchase of the drive-in by Eric Symeon and approved a variance for the land to become a drive-in again earlier this year.

I hope some of the memorabilia Mr. Symeon found in the buildings will be put on display – I almost wish I had withstood the heat and bugs to browse the property more when we were there!

Best of luck and well wishes during the renovations – the marquee already looks 110% better and only good things can happen from here on out! 3 Cheers for another drive-in theatre brought back to life (Coming: Spring 2018!).

**Make sure to check out my original post about the Moonlite Drive-In! 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.48.04 PM

Point 3 Drive-In Theatre Route 11 & Northumberland-Da Hwy Danville, PA 17821

 

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. 

Electro-Matic Tacony Palmyra  IMG_4162

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

Shankweiler’s Drive-In

Date of Visit: April 20, 2013

I was pumped when we decided we would take the hour and a half drive up to Orefield, PA to attend the movies at Shankweiler’s Drive-In. My adventures to visit other (open) drive-ins outside of Delsea DI were really happening!!

  • History:IMG_4306

Shankweiler‘s is the longest-running theater in America – it opened on April 15, 1934 and has been in continuous operation since. Impressive (and quite awesome) to say the least. Shankweiler’s was actually the 2nd drive-in to open in the United States, following the original Camden Drive-In in NJ (…that will be a blog in the near future). Unlike the Camden DI, however, Shankweiler’s has managed to survive!

When they first opened, Shankweiler’s used sound projected from a speaker near the screen. As inventions and technology advanced, Shankweiler’s added speaker poles and car speakers in 1948. As far as sound goes, the use of an AM station occurred in 1982, and then finally the advancement to FM frequency in 1986 (the year I was born!). FM radio is the current sound projection used by Shankweiler’s, as it seems to be with the majority of DI theaters I have researched.

I found it interesting to learn about Shankweiler’s screen… originally it was a simple sheet, stretched out. Then it was a “shadow box” or small screen. However, in 1955 a rough hurricane (I shall not speak her name!) destroyed the screen and projection booth. That same year, a new screen was built, as well as a projection booth/concession stand/restroom location. The screen and building for projections/concessions/bathrooms in 2013 is the same from 1955.  In case you didn’t figure it out, Shankweiler’s has one screen. According to drive-ins.com and a few other sites, about 300 cars is the capacity.

  • My Visit

Showtime was 8:15 pm, and we arrived at 6:39 pm (according to my camera). IMG_4279As we came to the stoplight at Rt 309 and Shankweiler Rd, the Neon Sign across the street had me fumbling with my camera for a good shot. I was bouncing in the passenger seat, anticipating the view of the entrance. As we made the left-hand turn, the back of the screen and entrance marquee was prominently in view. I mean, you can’t miss the place! We pulled over and parked right outside to get some photos – crossed the street to the neon sign, and then back over so we could enter the theater.

Entrance Shankweiler's DI

Spot @ Shankweiler's DI

The Perfect Spot

When we pulled in, only about 3 cars were parked already. Since we are a “high vehicle” we had to park between the yellow poles. After 3 tries, we found our perfect spot. Blankets and pillows were arranged, and then I started snapping pictures.

I liked that there was gravel for driving and grass for parking, delineating the spots and allowing a bit more comfort if you chose to sit outside the car. I did see one girl jumping rope before the movies, and a couple of families setting up chairs.

Concession, Projection Booth, Restrooms

Concession, Projection Booth, Restrooms at Shankweiler’s DI

The concession stand had the basics – hot dogs, burgers, popcorn, goobers, and other candy assortments. An entrance on both sides of the building allows customers to get their food easily, regardless of their parking destination. My hot dog was perfect, the large soda was GIANT, and the popcorn was yummy.

I have to say it was VERY COLD that night. Even under sleeping bags and 2 blankets I felt the chill. Definitely not a night to sit outside, and also might be the reason for a smaller attendance rate. It was also the first weekend they were open so word might not have gotten out yet. Let’s face it, not everyone is receiving weekly newsletters or checking websites a few times a week! Regardless, it was a great night.

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I had a chance to speak with Susan, one of the owners, before the first movie. What a sweet person! According to their 70 Years pamphlet, Susan and her husband have been part of the Shankweiler establishment since 1971 and then purchased the theater in 1984. Susan shared that they have several, non-local families that visit each year.

Shankweiler’s is truly a great place to visit, enjoy a couple movies, and create your own drive-in memories. Check it out!

Google Maps

Aerial View – So neat to see it like this!

Shankweiler’s Drive-In
4540 Shankweiler Road
Orefield, PA 18069
http://www.shankweilers.com/

Some additional photos…

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When on Rt. 309, about to turn left onto Shankweiler Road – there is the sign!

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