There was a time when drive-in movies were all the rage. You could enjoy a quiet date night or fill your car with family or friends, and talk all you want without disturbing fellow movie-goers – all for a more affordable admission price than the average cinema could allow.
But then came the VCR, the oil crisis of the late '70s and the rise of the big malls, with their multiplex cinemas. And now, as of May 2023, the number of drive-ins - more than 4,000 throughout the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s - has dropped to just 300, according to The New York Film Academy.
Of those, 30 are divided equally among Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. Two of those are the Delsea Drive-In in Vineland, N.J., and, in Pennsylvania, Shankweiler’s Drive-In in Orefield, which is just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and claims to be the second-oldest in the country. Both are about an hour and a half’s drive from Chestnut Hill.
There is, however, a closer cinema that still offers drive-in movies for those who enjoy classic films from the recent good old days. Penn Cinema, at 2068 County Line Road in Huntingdon Valley is about a half hour’s drive from Chestnut Hill, and will be showing films like “Rocky,” “Back to the Future,” “Field of Dreams,” and “Shrek,” mostly on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings throughout the summer. For more information, call 267-982-5795 or visit penncinema.com.
But for those who are nostalgic for the good-old days — or any movie-lover who might care to watch a film out under the stars rather than from the comfort of one’s couch — there are some community options that are even closer.
In Chestnut Hill, the Chestnut Hill Community Association hosts the annual Friday night “Movies Under the Stars” series in the field next to the Water Tower Recreation Center at 209 E. Hartwell Lane. Feel free to bring your friends, blankets, and chairs – and come early for a picnic supper. Food trucks arrive at 7 p.m. and the films start at 8 p.m.
This summer’s offerings, all of which are free, include “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” on Aug. 4; “Mamma Mia!” on Aug. 11; “Top Gun: Maverick” on Aug. 18; and “Jungle Cruise” on Aug. 25. For more information, go to chestnuthill.org.
In Mt. Airy, this year’s “Moonlight Movie,” hosted by the Mt. Airy Community Development Corporation, will be “Summer of Soul,” Questlove’s Academy-Award-winning 2022 documentary on the Harlem Cultural Festival of summer 1969. The acclaimed film will be screened at 7:30 p.m. (sunset), on Friday, July 28, at Lovett Park, next to Lovett Library, at 6945 Germantown Ave.
There will also be musical performances that evening, which have yet to be announced, as well as snacks and beverages. Sponsored by Temple Health Chestnut Hill Hospital, it is also free. For more information, call 215-844-6021.
A decidedly more edgy location for star-lit movie magic will be the Laurel Hill East section of historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, which is located at 3822 Ridge Ave. in East Falls. This summer’s “Cinema in the Cemetery” offerings include “Jaws,” on Friday, July 21, and “Witches of Eastwick” on Friday, Aug. 18. (Earlier this month, the program screened the cult classic “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”)
These spooky cinematic movies start at 8:30 p.m. General admission is $15, with discounts for seniors, students, and children. Parking instructions are available on the events pages of laurelhillphl.com.
In Whitemarsh Township, the “Movies in the Parks” series includes two remaining films in this summer’s family-friendly sequence, “Space Jam,” on Wednesday, July 19, and “DC League of Super Pets,” on Wednesday, Aug. 16. They will be screened at Miles Park, which is located at 303 Germantown Pike in Lafayette Hill.
The Whitemarsh films all start at dusk (8:30 p.m.) Bring comfortable chairs and be there at 7:30 p.m. to enjoy shaved ice treats provided by a Kona Ice Truck. For more information, call 610-828-7276.
In Whitpain, “Movies at Wentz Run Park Gazebo” hosted by Whitpain Parks & Recreation, shows free family-friendly movies at Wentz Run Park, located at 1000 Anvil Lane in Blue Bell. Films, which start at 7 p.m., include “Minions: The Rise of Gru” on Tuesday, July 18 and “Top Gun: Maverick” on Tuesday, Aug. 15. For more information call 610-277-2400.
In Doylestown, the Thursday night and family-friendly “Movies at the Mercer Museum” will be shown on the museum’s Green at 84 Pine Street. This summer’s series, which is presented in conjunction with the County Theater and in partnership with The Moving Picture Cinema, includes “Hairspray” on July 20; “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone” on Aug. 17; “Dirty Dancing” on Sept. 21 and “The Dark Crystal” on Oct. 19. The films start at dusk, with gates opening one hour before screening. Bring your own chair or blanket. For ticket prices and additional information, visit countytheater.org or call 215-345-0210.
In Plymouth Meeting, “Movies in the Park at Greater Plymouth Community Center'' runs on Wednesday evenings at the center’s amphitheater, located at 2903 Walton Road. This year’s lineup includes “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” on June 28; “Lightyear” on July 12 and “Puss in Boots'' on July 26. DJ entertainment starts around 7:30 p.m.; movies start at dusk. For more information, visit plymouthtownship.org.