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.