Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre | Orefield, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

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Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre

Orefield, Pennsylvania

America's oldest drive-in movie theater has been in continuous operation since 1934. 

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Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre first opened in 1934 and has been in continuous operation ever since. The theater was named for its founder, Wilson Shankweiler, a prominent entrepreneur and hotel owner in the Lehigh Valley. The second drive-in theater ever built, Shankweiler’s Drive-In preceded the flood of outdoor cinemas that would sprout up across the country in the mid-1950s.

Though pop-up style outdoor movies existed in the 1930s, few were permanently-constructed venues, and none catered specifically to automobiles. Shankweiler’s Drive-In drew inspiration and design elements from its only predecessor, the short-lived Camden Park-In Theatre in Camden, New Jersey. These “park-in” theaters were a new concept, and as the popularity of drive-ins rose, technological improvements to projection and sound distribution followed. Shankweiler’s Drive-In always managed to keep ahead of the curve, notably becoming the first drive-in to deliver the film’s soundtrack via FM radio broadcast instead of through speaker poles.

With a capacity of about 300 cars, Shankweiler’s is a small drive-in by contemporary standards. The clean, well-maintained property makes for a fun, nostalgic moviegoing experience under the stars.

Know Before You Go

The theater is located in Orefield, Pennsylvania, right of Route 309. A vintage sign is visible from the road, directing patrons to the entrance-way. The theater is typically open on weekends, with extended operation in the summer months.

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December 12, 2022

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