The oldest drive-in in the world is 30 minutes from the Kutztown campus

By Gina Glantz

Shankweiler’s,the oldest drive-in theatre in the world,was recently purchased by new owners.

The theatre is located at 4540 Shankweiler Road in Orefield, PA, and is only a 30-minute drive from the Kutztown campus. 

 Shankweiler’s snack bar
Photo Credit: Gina Glantz

The drive-in plays two movies each night, separated by a 15-minute intermission. 

Shankweiler’s website shows what features are playing each week.

Showtime starts approximately 20 minutes after sundown, around 7:45 p.m, and the box office opens 2 hours prior to showtime. 

Tickets can be purchased online or in person. Adult admission is $12 and child admission, ages 12 and under, is $8. This cost covers both movies. 

Shankweiler’s projection screen
Photo Credit: Gina Glantz

Shankweiler’s Drive-In Theatre was opened on April 15, 1934, by Wilson Shankweiler. At 89 years old, it is the oldest drive-in theatre currently operating in the world.

The new owners, Lauren McChesney and Matt McClanahan, kept the theatre in operation by purchasing it in November 2022.

After purchasing the theatre, the new owners’ main objective, according to Matt McClanahan, was to engage more in the community, which the owners believe they have achieved. 

To connect with the local community, the new owners now play ads for local small businesses. They have also teamed with vendors and food trucks to increase community partnerships.

Snacks from the snack bar
Photo Credit: Gina Glantz

After purchasing the theatre, the owners wanted to figure out ways for the theatre to stay relevant and fun. To achieve this, they made several changes to the drive-in, including online ticket purchasing, opening the theatre year-round, and allowing pets.

Previously, Shankweiler’s tickets could only be purchased at the theatre, the drive-in would close around Labor Day, and pets were not allowed.

The movie showings are another change Lauren McChesney and Matt McClanahan brought to the theatre. In previous years, Shankweiler’s was centered around the family, mainly playing family-friendly movies. The new owners wanted to broaden their audience to further connect with their community.

A mixture of new and old films for all audience types are now played at the theatre. The owners state that during the summer months, their audience is mainly families, but during the other seasons it’s young adults, ages20-40 years old.

The theatre saw a particularly large crowd of young adults in July when it showed Barbie and Legally Blonde. The new and old movie combination drew large crowds, according to the owners. 

While the owners have made several advancements to the world’s oldest drive-in, they have retained some elements. Ticket prices were not changed, the 1950s-style music can still be heard during intermission, the snack bar still sells the same snacks, and the projection screen is still the same from 1955.

With fall approaching, the owners are taking advantage of the Halloween season by playing Halloween-themed movies. They stated this time of year is particularly exciting since the theatre has rarely been open for Halloween.

Shankweiler’s history, events, policies and frequently asked questions (FAQs), rental and Advertising inquiries, and snack bar information can be found on their website.


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