Still Standing: Five Classic American Drive-Ins
Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Baltimore, MD
Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre in Carsonville, MI
Route 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, MO
Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre in Orefield, PA
Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre in Wellfleet, MA
Before IMAX, before eight-dollar tubs of popcorn and cramped multiplex seating, the drive-in theatre was king. Drive-in movies saw their heyday in the 1950s, a couple of decades after the first opened in 1933 in Camden, New Jersey, but many drive-ins have stood the test of time. Here are five of America’s oldest that are still going strong.
Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre
Hotel and restaurant owner Wilson Shankweiler opened Pennsylvania's first drive-in theatre on April 15, 1934. Only the second one in the country, Shankweiler’s Drive-In featured silent films in its early years and a concession stand where hot dogs and candy sold for a nickel. Just an hour’s drive from Philly, Shankweiler’s was rebuilt after Hurricane Diane leveled the screen and projection booth in 1955. It now stands as the oldest drive-in in the country.
Bengies Drive-In Theatre
Good movies, affordable admission prices, and concessions that don’t break the bank are all hallmarks of Bengies drive-in theatre. After 57 years in business, Bengies has seemingly perfected the formula for staying alive in the movie theatre business. Bengies is home to the biggest silver screen in America (52’ x 120’), a snack bar straight out of the 1950s, and triple-movie features all for a general admission of less than 10 bucks.
Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre
The Hi-Way is not the biggest drive-in theatre left in Michigan. (That distinction goes to the five-screen Ford-Wyoming in Dearborn.) But of the 10 still standing in the state, it’s definitely the oldest. First lit back in 1948 and just a one- or two-hour drive from most areas in metro Detroit, Hi-Way Drive-In double features new-release movies from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre
From the onsite playground to the 18-hole mini-golf course, the grounds of the Wellfleet Drive-In are all about good old-fashioned family fun. Built in 1957, this nostalgic Cape Cod theatre features first-run films during the summer months on a huge 100’ x 44’ screen. Movie sound is provided by tuning in on an FM station or, for those looking for a true old-time, drive-in-movie-theatre vibe, one of the authentic silver squawk boxes.
Route 66 Drive-In Theatre
Opened in 1949, four years before local television came to the Joplin-Springfield area, Route 66 Drive-In managed to stay in business even after America’s most popular highway was essentially closed. The drive-in did shut down in 1985, but was then renovated and reopened in 1998 and continues to show first-run movies from its location on old Route 66.