Feb 2, 2024

Don't Forget Your Booties 'Cause It's Cold Out There

Groundhog Day
Shankweiler's Drive-In TheatreOrefield, PA
We were originally going to visit Shankweiler's Drive In Theater for the first time on New Years Eve for their planned Happy Keanu Year double feature of The Matrix and Johnny Mnemonic, but the event was cancelled due to issues that they were having with their projector.  Truth be told, we probably wouldn't have been able to make it down anyway because my wife and I were both very sick for the last week of 2023.  As it turned out, this delayed our visit by just over a month as they were having an event tonight that we cannot miss: a double feature of Groundhog Day and... Groundhog Day... on the night of Groundhog Day.

Shankweiler's Drive In Theater opened on April 15, 1934.  It was the second drive-in theater to open in the United States (the first one opened on June 6th, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey), and it's the oldest drive-in theater in the world that is still in operation today.  It's a single screen, digital projection theater on Route 309 in Orefield, Pennsylvania, which is roughly an hour away from where we live and about 20 minutes further away than the Mahoning.

Shankweiler's is now owned and operated by Matt McClanahan, who partnered with Virgil and Jeff to turn the Mahoning into what it is today.  Matt is heavily featured in the At The Drive In documentary about the Mahoning, and after I had seen it, I wondered why we never saw him there.  I'm not sure of the details, but at some point prior to my wife and I discovering the Mahoning, Matt struck out on his own.  He and his partner Lauren McChesney purchased Shankweiler's sometime around November 2022.  Since that time, they've shown a mix of first-run theatrical movies and older movies, sometimes on the same night.

We met up with our friends Kate, Mike (who is hiding in the back), Louie, Shannon, and Donnie (who wasn't there yet when the picture was taken), so the Mahoning front row mob was well-represented.  We even ended up parking our regular center-right spots in the front row.  It was pretty cold out so none of us brought our lawn chairs, but we had an opportunity to hang out and catch up before the show and during intermission.  February is right around the halfway point between the end of the Mahoning 2023 season and Opening Weekend 2024, so I'm thinking that a trip to Shankweiler's this time of year might become an annual tradition.

I've come to appreciate the charm of seeing movies from their original 35mm prints, but there's something to be said for the crisp picture from a digital projector, and it's nice to have a place to meet up with our drive-in friends during the winter when the Mahoning is closed... especially for the opportunity to see Groundhog Day at a drive-in on Groundhog Day.

The movie premiered in theaters in February 1993.  I was 12 years old at the time, and while I didn't see it on the big screen, it was something that I rented on VHS when it was still on the new release wall.  It was one of those movies that I'd pop in the VCR when I was a teenager, often times just as something to have on in the background while I was doing something else.  It's a very pleasant movie with a performance from Bill Murray that I don't think any other actor could have touched.  These days, it seems to universally be accepted as a modern classic, and it's become an annual tradition for my wife and I to watch it every February 2nd.... never thought I'd be able to do it at a drive-in though!