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Jersey’s Drive-In Movies with Springsteen Update

This story was originally posted on July 4th.  Since then, I’ve received permission to pass along images related to a July 1966 performance at the Loew’s 35 Drive-In of the Castiles featuring Bruce Springsteen.

We’ll get to the Bruce stuff further down in the story.

Moviegoers Experience 1950s At Drive-In Theater
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

In case you missed the original post, here’s a bit of history about New Jersey’s drive-in movie theatres.

During the 1950′s and 60′s, at the height of their popularity, drive-in movie theatres dotted the landscape of the Great Garden State.

Back in “The Day” there were almost 50 drive-in movie venues in New Jersey.  Now, there’s only one.  For those of you who are familiar with the Atlantic City area, you’re probably aware that the Delsea Drive-In, in Vineland, is up and running.  The Delsea was originally in operation from the 50′s until 1987.  It re-opened in 2004 and is still surviving.  All the rest are just memories.  For those of us who can remember, those were some great summertime memories.

New Jersey certainly has a claim to fame when it comes to drive-in movie theatres.  The first drive-in ever was opened in Camden way back in 1933.  It was the Camden Drive-In located on Crescent Boulevard.  The price for admission was 25 cents per car plus an additional quarter for each passenger.  There were no individual speakers at “The Camden.”  The sound was projected from speakers up by the movie screen.  Back in those days I guess there weren’t too many audiophiles around.

Here’s one, that looking back, sounds kind of scary.  Located in Wall Township, it was Ed Brown’s Drive-In and Fly-In.  Yes, fly-in!  Opening in 1948, the place had room for 500 cars, and get this, 25 small airplanes!  There was an airport adjacent to the drive-in where planes could taxi over and take in a flick.  After the movie ended, the airplane was towed back to the airport.  “United 747 to Wall control tower..permission for final approach to fly-in theatre.”

One of the largest drive-in theatres in the the U.S. was located in Newark.  The Newark Drive-In had a capacity for a whopping 2,400 cars.

The snack bar.  Oh, we can’t forget that small building situated in the middle of the drive-in.  To be kind, the menu was no rival for Le Cirque.  There was the usual fare that included hamburgers and hot dogs that tasted like they were prepared a year or two in advance.  Some locations offered a barbecue sandwich.  You want to know the ingredients?  No you don’t.  The safe bets were ice cream sandwiches, candy, and popcorn.

Is Bruce Springsteen a part of New Jersey’s drive-in movie history?  You bet.

The date was July 29, 1966.  The location was Loew’s 35 Drive-In in Hazlet.

Here’s the advertisement that ran in “The Courier” newspaper.

Courtesy Pete Russell/Brucebase

That “live band” mentioned in the ad were the Castiles.  A band member of the quintet was a kid named Bruce Springsteen.  Here’s a photo of the group that was taken in May 1966.  Check out their groovy garb!

From left to right: George Theiss, Bruce, Curt Fluhr, Paul Popkin, and Vinnie Manniello. Courtesy Pete Russell/Brucebase

 

On that mid-summer evening those sweethearts sporting their beehive hairdo’s, while dancing to the music of the Castiles, didn’t have a clue that one day one of those kids would eventually become a worldwide icon.

The main reason for the drive-in’s decline was real estate.  Drive-in’s consumed acres of property.  The property became so valuable that owners sold it off to developers.  Today many of the old drive-in sites have been converted to residential and commercial complexes.

I’ll bet you, or your Mom and Dad have some fond memories and stories about your local drive-in.  If you do, please share them with us.  I’d love to hear from you.

My thanks to noted Freehold Borough and Bruce Springsteen historian, Kevin Coyne for directing me on the right path to the information.

And, a very special thank you to Pete Russell of Brucebase for permitting me to show the Springsteen related images.

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