Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre to Celebrate 90th Anniversary

Courtesy of Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre

America’s oldest drive-in movie theater, founded in 1934, is celebrating its 90th anniversary in April. Matthew McClanahan and Lauren McChesney, the owners of Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre, have announced the historic theater will be hosting a celebration of the anniversary. Shankweiler’s originally opened on April 15th, 1934 and the anniversary festivities will be held on Saturday, April 13th of this year.

Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre is located in Orefield, Pennsylvania. It was built in 1934 by Wilson Shankweiler. The second drive-in ever built, Shankweiler’s now holds a Guinness World Record as the oldest operating drive-in theater in the world. Shankweiler’s became one of the first drive-in theaters to broadcast movie audio via FM broadcast stereo in 1986 and converted to digital cinema in 2014. The theater was sold to its fourth set of owners, Matthew McClanahan and Lauren McChesney of The Moving Picture Cinema, LLC, in 2022. Boxoffice Pro spoke with the owners earlier this year about their passion for drive-ins and continuing the legacy of America’s oldest.

One major highlight of the celebration will be a re-enactment of the drive-in’s earliest days. Often described as “a bedsheet hung between two poles,” the drive-in initially began as a DIY venture behind Wilson Shankweiler’s popular restaurant and inn (now inhabited by Hunsicker Funeral Home). The re-enactment will also feature period-specific vehicles provided by The NB Center of American Automotive Heritage in Allentown.

The event will be held on Saturday, April 13th with the gates opening at 5:00 PM for photo-ops and activities, including magic from Mark Mysterrio and themed drinks by County Seat Spirits. Movie titles and showtime will be announced closer to the event date. Tickets for the event can be purchased on the company’s website or in-person at the box office night-of-show.

“It’s a huge honor to be a part of such a significant milestone, not just for Shankweiler’s but for drive-ins around the world,” says McClanahan. “This anniversary is a celebration of the theater’s rich history, but it also marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter as we continue to evolve and innovate.”

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Courtesy of Shankweiler's Drive-In Theatre

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