Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theater — the oldest operating drive-in movie theater in the U.S.


TGIF, whatchyou doing this weekend? Maybe Mod Betty of Retro Roadmap‘s new video about Shankweiler’s Drive In Theater — the oldest in the nation, now celebrating its 81st year — will entice you to consider tracking down an old skool drive-in in your neck of the woods. Need a map to find one? Check out Betty’s Retro Roadmap — here’s the link to drive-in theaters on her growing list — just add your state — find one nearby — raid the coffee can for money for Milk Duds — and head on over.

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Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    This is great! Growing up we always went to the Sky-Vu drive-in south of Monroe, WI. Wonderful memories and they are still in operation.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Laurie Louise says

    Cool! Can’t wait to explore the world according to Betty!

    This weekend it’s all hands on deck for the final push to get the house far enough along that we can move in comfortably. The last month or so, I’ve thought of life there as camping in a really nice tent. To make life even better, yesterday, my Aunt Tiby gifted me with a nearly complete set of vintage Fransciscan Desert Rose, all her local antique shop had. I’m so happy! Hope everyone has a fun weekend. Thank you Pam, Kate and Mod Betty for a great post!

  3. Sara says

    I went to Shankweiler’s all the time as a kid–and remember what a treat it was to sit out on lawn chairs in front of the car, eating as much popcorn as humanly possible. I was absolutely amazed when my husband told me he had never been to a drive-in, so I made sure we made the trip post-haste! It’s a great drive-in, and the people are wonderful.

  4. Roundhouse Sarah says

    I’ve never been to a drive in theater. The one in my town that had been long abandoned was turned into a putting range. And according to the map I won’t be going to one soon either… They are so far away from where I live! Boohoo! : (

  5. AtomicHipster says

    Hi Pam,

    Any idea if Northfield Drive-in is still open? I know they were not sure if they could afford the switch to Digital camera.

    John

  6. Kate says

    Love this Mod Betty! Brings back good memories since I remember going to our local, small town drive-in as a kit myself. They used to show a kid movie followed by one for the parents (since most kids fell asleep after the first movie). Seeing a drive-in movie was like a mini camping trip!

    I looked up the drive-in I used to go to as a kid and it looks like it closed in 2012. Bummer! Glad there are still others open around the country.

  7. Mary Elizabeth says

    Wow! Thanks for this list, Mod Betty! I remember going to Waterford (Connecticut) Drive In when I was a kid. You paid per car, so my parents would pile the four of us and visiting cousins or friends in the “way back,” and we would bring a picnic of snacks. Yes, we piled out into lawn chairs so we could see better. Before the second feature began, we’d be asleep on a camp mattress in the “way back.” Then as a teenager, I had some of my first dates at drive-ins. OK, so neither me nor my date could drive yet, so his father took us and we got out of the car and sat on lawn chairs again. :-) At least he would take his time buying popcorn so we could be alone for 15 minutes.

    There are still three drive-ins in Connecticut. Plus, the same retro family atmosphere is created in a park in nearby Norwich, where they show second-run feature films and families come with their picnics and chairs and bug repellent. Mosquitoes are an unpleasant side effect of drive-in fun.

  8. Janice says

    The Landmark Drive-in is still operating in my city of Wichita, Kansas and it’s an “all hands on deck” family affair several times throughout the summer. We’ve done this since our own children were little and now those children have children of their own. We pick up buckets of chicken and snacks and eat ourselves silly all night. Wichita does a great job in supporting the drive-in and I’m happy that it’s still here for us. It’s a great, inexpensive, way to spend time with the family! Love it!

  9. Sandra says

    Only a few months a year? Try 12. The Solano Drive-In in Concord, CA is open, unless the fog is too thick, every night, plus the flea market on the weekends.

    I used to manage this drive-in, and I was the last manager of both the Concord Automovie and the Rancho Drive-in in San Pablo, CA.

    I’ll never forget the time the answering machine broke, so I was taking calls from people wanting to know the movie times. One lady was really upset that JUNGLE BOOK didn’t start until 9:15 pm, and I had to break it to her that we had to wait for the sun to go down.

    The biggest enemy to drive-ins is politicians. The Concord Automovie was closed with eminent domain in order to replace it with auto-dealerships that would generate more sales tax and property tax for the city. Drive-ins only pay property tax on the projection booth and the snackbar, not the field.

    I still remember having to operate the carbon-arc projectors (think arc-welding) when the projectionists went on strike. My short term (18 months) covered Star Wars, Grease, and Saturday Night Fever, and I’ve seen the opening credits dozens of times.

    • says

      Sandra-

      I realized that my New England perspective got the best of me when I generalized that all DIs were only open seasonally – I keep on forgetting that there are places in the US where the weather is nice enough to allow fun places like these to remain open year ’round (and I admit I’m a tad jealous!)

      There’s a great documentary out there called Going Attractions”s that elaborates on a lot of the details I was not aware of about Drive Ins and the affect the changing landscape has on their existence.

      http://www.goingattractions.com/

      But I had no idea until your comment that taxes were not paid on the parcel, just the buildings – interesting! Thanks for that tid-bit!

      Mod B

  10. says

    For those of us on the East Coast there is still a drive in in Hyde Park NY, right next to a time capsule motel, and near a diner where some of the cooks are students at the Culinary Institute.

  11. Katie B. says

    I love the drive-in. I’ve been going to the same one in Lakeport, CA my whole life, and I’m grateful they have not shut down. I think part of the reason they haven’t is that they built the newer movie theater on the same property. I only wish it was year round. My husband and I have always said it would be awesome for them to do a special Halloween showing because it’s our favorite holiday.

    I was researching drive-ins the other day and there used to be one right down the street from my house! Oh, if only I could go back in time. I will definitely have to check out the other NorCal locations, especially if the Solano one is open year round AND has a flea market. Thanks for the awesome info!

  12. ChrisH says

    There are 5 still operating in Michigan (very seasonal) I’m sure Betty has all the links already.

    Now if we could just get them to show retro films.

  13. Janet in ME says

    This is one of those subjects that makes me want to cry. So many wonderful things we grew up with are fast disappearing. I too love diners and drive-ins and we try to shop at the mom and pop stores and independent supermarkets if we can, but they are becoming few and far between. I am also thrilled when I see an old movie theater, with the big marquee over the door, still operating, but you usually only see them in small towns that still have a busy main street not abandoned due to malls. I am deeply saddened that so many big box stores have moved in and taken over, but we have found alot of small businesses still survive up in Maine. This is a wonderful article and website and thanks so much for posting it!

  14. CarolK says

    When I was very little, my mom and dad took us 4 kids along with them to see Gone With the Wind at the drive-in in Seneca, SC. All I remember about the film was a pretty girl in a white dress walking across the yard and a big fire.

    Earlier this year, my daughter and I took my 5 year-old granddaughter to see Maleficent at the Sunset Drive-in in Shelby, NC. It was so much fun! The management reminded their customers to help out their neighbors that might have a dead battery when they started their cars after the first feature. The snacks are inexpensive, too. As we were leaving, we saw one young couple out on a date complete with a bistro table, chairs and candelabra set up on the back of a pickup. How romantic!

  15. BungalowMo says

    OMG!!!! I used to go there a few times every Summer! Lived just up the road in Neffs PA.

    Oh my goodness…the wonderful memories!! :0)

  16. says

    I’m from Pen Argyl!

    I didn’t know how many would be interested.

    If you go to the park, it’s only open on the weekends thru the fall.
    Pasties are great! If you only have two meals I would do Daisy but Mr. Pastie does have them frozen – so bring the cooler-those vintage old one stay a lot cooler too! Check with the hours, not sue if they are open Sat anymore.

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