Mahoning Drive-In

635 Seneca Road,
Lehighton, PA 18235

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Mahoning Drive-In

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The Mahoning Drive-In opened in 1949 and was operated by James Humphries. Initially it had a capacity for 500 cars, later increased to 600 cars. In recent years it was owned by Mike and Deb Danchak, who also owned the nearby Angel Theatre in Coaldale. New owners took over the Mahoning Drive-In in 2014.

Open May-September at weekends, it features the area’s largest screen, measuring 120ft wide. It features FM listening devices as well as room for 900 cars. The Mahoning Drive-In is ‘all retro’, featuring 35mm film prints. It also now offers camping on the grounds for an extra $10 per car load.

Contributed by Dave Bonan

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on July 20, 2015 at 5:54 am

Inquirer article yesterday on how 2 ex Temple film students + long time projectionist are running it with 35mm films- http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/movies/20150717_Temple_grads_runopen-air_nostalgia_palacedrive-in_theater.html

melvin
melvin on July 23, 2015 at 4:04 am

The Mahoning Drive-In is open this season under new management, as the article above details. They’re a great, film-loving crew and super-friendly. This season they’re going all-retro/all-35mm with an eclectic line-up of themed weekends, with some really rare titles being shown among the classics. They undid the corral setup, and the lot is once again wide open, with the original ticket booth in use. They now offer camping (outdoors or sleeping in your car) for an extra $10 per car, which makes it easier on folks like me who travel long distances to see these rare and amazing shows they’re putting on. Snack bar prices are very inexpensive, too.

ROCKER4EVER
ROCKER4EVER on August 9, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Update-This theater is no longer run by the Danchaks,and there is no playground equipment nor flea market,BUT,they are showing 35mm retro shows every weekend,check one out and help support this drive-in, they have a Facebook page

welder1977
welder1977 on February 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Humphries didnt operate the Drive In at Mahoning Valley. He was a Dr a Dentist from Lehighton was one of the ownwers as was Mr Becker from Tamaqua and also my parents William C Shirar and Loretta K.Shirar. My mother did the bookings at and first my dad showed the movies on the screen. They also owned the Mahoning Valley Florial Company located near the Drive In.

bloosoda
bloosoda on August 31, 2016 at 5:36 am

It’s great to see how the Mahoning is hanging in there with film as Hollywood’s supplies of 35mm prints dry up. Prior to these young guys running it, there was a brief episode with a not-so-nice fellow that needed to be posted, while an original article was still available.

Excitement Turns to Concern for Drive-In Trying to Stay Open POSTED 8:55 PM, MAY 10, 2013, BY DAVE BOHMAN WNEP-TV 16 ABC

MAHONING TOWNSHIP — Earlier this spring, volunteers in Carbon County gave up their weekends to save a connection with their past. They helped fix up the Mahoning Drive-In movie theater near Lehighton. They hoped their hard work would keep it open for summers to come. But the theater just off Route 443 also needs $60,000 for a digital projector. Hollywood will soon stop printing films that run on older projectors like the one at the Mahoning Drive-in.

Projectionist Mike Danchak restored the Angela Theater in Coaldale, and he also manages the Mahoning Drive-in. He was contacted this winter by Glen Brannon of Florida. He said Brannon claimed he had a record of saving other old theaters. “He wanted to lease it, and then buy the (Mahoning) Drive-in,” said Danchak. “My only hope was that he would save the drive-in.”

An Action 16 Investigation found that since 2007, Brannon was involved in efforts to renovate drive-ins and theaters in three states. He also worked under the names Russell Brannan or Russel Glen, and his part in and the efforts ended abruptly. Last spring Brannan arranged to lease, then own the Tee Pee Drive-in on historic US Route 66 near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Just like in Carbon County, volunteers in Oklahoma worked hard to fix up the Drive in. A TV station in Tulsa reported that Brannan set an opening date, delayed it twice, and the Tee Pee never did re-open.

Owners of the Sky-View drive-in in Kentucky, and the historic Lawford Theater in Illinois, claim Brannon operated their theaters for a short time, and left after disputes over money. “People don`t want to sit there and listen to what I have to say in order to make things work out,” said Brannan by phone from his home in Florida. Brannan claims he was pointing the Mahoning Drive-in toward profitability, but said he had disagreements with manager Mike Danchak over ticket prices, fund-raising plans, and promotions.

Danchak said Brannan almost cost the Mahoning Drive-in dearly, by selling 250 season passes for $59 a car load. “If we accepted them, we would go bankrupt,” said Danchak, “because we would have nothing but passes all summer.” Danchak said Brannan’s money-losing offer forced the theater to buy the tickets back, leaving the Mahoning Drive-in with just $5,000, and time is running out to get the $60,000 projector. Brannan calls his actions, smart marketing, claiming he brought buzz to a dying drive-in. “I`m sore because here this theater was going to close,” said Brannan, “and I got people that had never known that the theater was still open excited about it.”

As a result of the actions, Mike Danchak said he has scaled back expectations of keeping the Mahoning Drive-in open after this year. He said he hopes to find a used digital projector for a fraction of the cost of a new one.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 16, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Upcoming documentary about the Mahoning Drive-In. Apparently not being screened there…

http://republicanherald.com/news/documentary-to-tell-story-of-mahoning-drive-in-1.2252034

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on October 17, 2017 at 2:04 am

Why was it called Mahoning?

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on October 17, 2017 at 5:59 am

I can’t answer that. But the e-mail and phone number for the author of the above article are in the link.

NeonMichael
NeonMichael on October 27, 2017 at 1:03 pm

davidcoppock, the drive-in is within Mahoning Township. The screen is less than 1200 feet from Mahoning Drive (AKA PA Route 902). The town of New Mahoning is about 2½ miles west of the drive-in, and the Mahoning Valley Speedway and Mahoning Valley Farmers Market are about a mile east.

Of those possibilities, I’m not sure which is the inspiration for the drive-in’s name.

NeonMichael
NeonMichael on October 27, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Although the drive-in’s old web site (seen at Archive.org) claimed the Mahoning opened in 1948, that’s just wrong. The March 26, 1949 Billboard magazine said that Max Korr “in association with Mitchell Rappeport and others” was building a drive-in in Mahoning Valley. The first time it was mentioned in The Morning Call of Allentown was April 18, 1949 when it wrote that “the theatre has been completed” and that it “will bring to this section one of the nation’s finest theatres.” And there was a later interview with a guy “who witnessed the theater’s opening in 1949”.

The Mahoning’s first appearance in the Theatre Catalog series was the 1949-50 edition; the listed “Exec” was Max Korr, and its capacity was 500. In the 1952 TC, the exec/owner was “A. M. Ellis Th. Ct.” and the capacity was bumped to 600. In the 1955-56 edition, the exec/owner was James Humphries.

The Morning Call wrote on May 23, 1952 that Mitchell Rapaport, president of the Mahoning Corporation, had sued the drive-in and A. M. Ellis Theatres Co. Separately, the drive-in had sued Ellis Theatres for interfering with operations. It was a complicated, long story of loans, intertwined businesses, and hiring Max M. Korr Enterprises two weeks earlier to buy and book films.

An auction notice for the drive-in (725 car capacity), its lease, equipment, and name was in the Oct. 4 Philadelphia Inquirer. Five days later, The Morning Call wrote it was sold at auction by the Ellis Theater Company to Dr. Joseph J. Humphries and R. C. H. Becker Sr. “Both men had been associated with the operation of the theatre,” wrote the Mauch Chunk Times-News.

Amazingly, it gets more confusing. The Nov. 15, 1952 issue of Billboard magazine said the Mahoning was sold at auction to Max Korr and associates.

Despite the sale, the Motion Picture Almanacs continued to list Ellis Theatres as the owner through the 1961 edition. At first the capacity was 500, then in 1956, the capacity dropped to 450, where it stayed. The owner for at least the 1963-66 editions was Claude Reinhard, who had founded Palmerton TV Signal Corporation, an early cable TV company.

The MPAs didn’t list owners for at least 1969-76. After that, the editions on my shelf list the Mahoning’s owner as:
1978: Riant Entp.
1980-82: J. Morgan.
1984-88: J. Farruggio.

The Morning Call wrote on Aug 23, 1992 that Amos Theaters Inc. (owned by Joseph Farruggio) had owned the Mahoning since 1981. Its manager was described as “an employee of the Palmerton Telephone Company”.

On Aug. 22, 1997 The Morning Call wrote about Farruggio preparing to show adult movies and trying not to run afoul of the Carbon County DA. “He’s shown no movies this year, but now says he’ll play the explicit films two weeks to maintain the drive-in’s 49 years of continuous operation, then close again.” Farruggio said he needed the proceeds to pay overdue taxes. (He eventually backed down and showed Mimic and Copland instead.) He had been battling “for five years” to get permits to add three screens. The drive-in is adjacent to an airport (then Carbon County, now Jake Arner Memorial) so the FAA was involved.

In 1998, the Mahoning opened for only a few weeks because health permits “require the facility to be open at least one night a year.”

I’m not sure when Mike and Deb Danchak came in, or there were other owners in between. In 2013, as the digital conversion loomed, the drive-in had a misadventure starring a guy who said he fixed up drive-ins but never told me which ones. My story and that guy’s comment can be found here.

The Morning Call called Jeff Mattox “a new owner” on October 23, 2014. He joined with two former Temple University film students, Virgil Cardamone and Matthew McClanahan, to embrace the 35mm nostalgia factor and keep the Mahoning running film even today.

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