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The Arrowhead

The Student News Site of Souderton Area High School

The Arrowhead

The Student News Site of Souderton Area High School

The Arrowhead

The Arrowhead

Shankweiler’s preserves cinematic Americana

Shankweiler’s remains committed to one of the great American pastimes.
Shankweiler’s preserves cinematic Americana

Aiming to preserve the timeless magic of the drive-in movie, Shankweiler’s movie theater in Orefield, Pa. continues to show both classic and new movies.
As the theater nears its hundredth anniversary, its owners remain committed to the original vision of its founder.
Shankweiler’s was the second ever drive-in movie theater to open in the United States, just one year after the Camden Drive-In opened its doors in New Jersey.
With the closure of the Camden in 1940, Shankweiler’s stands alone as the oldest continually operating movie theater in America.
According to Shankweiler’s current owners, the theater’s historic nature was too valuable to let it slip away.
“We purchased the theater in 2022,” said co-owner Matt McClanahan. “It had been for sale on-and off since about 2013, and what really lit a fire for us to purchase it was seeing the sellers were open to letting the property become developed.”
For McClanahan and co-owner Lauren McChesney, the potential loss of Shankweiler’s historical and cultural value was something they couldn’t accept.
“We saw not so much an opportunity so much as a necessity to step in,” McClanahan said, “to be that bid to keep it a drive-in, to preserve what it is and has been.”
For the pair, drive-in movie theaters remain a symbol of America’s rich history of entertainment. McClanahan feels that few forms of entertainment embody 20th century America quite like the drive-in.
“I think [drive-ins] are just inherently special by nature of what they are,” McLanahan said. “They’re such a unique experience, not just on a movie going sense but also culturally.”
McChesney echoes this sentiment.
“They’re something that’s distinctly American, and while they are now in other parts of the world they still feel very American,” McChesney said. “They were born here, the Northeast has always sort of been the home of the drive-in.”
The pair also feel that drive-in theaters offer a completely different experience to a traditional, sit-down theater.
“The movie won’t start for two hours, but we’ll almost always have people here early setting up around their cars, hanging out, getting food or playing around in our open space,” McChesney said.
“It’s a whole different experience to going to a movie theater, where you go in, you sit down, you watch the movie, and then you go home. Going to the drive-in is an event.”
McClanahan feels that the nature of Shankweiler’s allows for patrons to have a much more complete and personal movie going experience.
“We like to say that the experience is whatever you want to make it,” McClanahan said. “It can be as simple as watching the movie from inside your car, and deck-out your car in blankets and pillows. It’s a truly unique experience.”
Adding to this uniqueness is the nature of a night at Shankweiler’s, which not only consists of a mix of classic and contemporary movies but also continues a historic tradition: the double feature.
“We have one showtime every day, so we only get one shot and have to make it count,” said McClanahan. “We make use of the double feature, so you get two movies for the price of one and doing that allows us to really draw [in] customers.”

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Sam Kennedy
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