21 Old South Jersey Drive-in Movie Theaters and What’s There Now
Back in the day, you could choose to see a film at 21 different drive-in movie theaters in South Jersey -- and now, only one remains.
But the legacy of those 20 theaters has not been forgotten, however, you probably drive past places where hundreds of people once visited to see movies in their cars and not even know it.
The history of drive-in theaters in the Garden State -- and the nation -- started in 1933 when America's first drive-in opened on Admiral Wilson Blvd. in Pennsauken. While that theater had a giant screen to see a movie on, an efficient way to hear those movies had not yet been developed. To hear what you were seeing, you had to roll your car windows down and listen to giant speakers next to the screen. Not only could you hear the movie, but so could everyone who lived around there.
Drive-ins began to rapidly open in the late-1940s and into the 50s. They were everywhere in practically every county.
As time moved into the 70s, drive-ins started to suffer. Many closed. Some struggled to make it into the 80s. At least one showed X-rated movies to try to bring in money (can you imaging seeing porn on a drive-in movie screen?!).
One of the features of a drive-in was the fact that hundreds of cars (in some cases, well over a thousand) could park and see a movie. To do that, you needed a lot of land that's cleared and wide-open. Those wide-open spaces made those big plots of land attractive to developers (especially in New Jersey) and, in a money crunch, many theaters sold. As you'll see below, many spots that were drive-ins have been heavily developed.
Before we begin, a disclaimer: I'm considering roughly anything south of Interstate 195 to be "South Jersey" for the purposes of this walk back in time to showcase the wide variety of theaters that once dotted the landscape.
And after you take a look at the pictures below, you'll want to pay a visit to cinematreasures.org, which is a tremendous resource to explore the history of drive-ins, complete with vintage pictures and comments from fans.