CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY

Movie Theaters

   Camden NJ in its prime had many theaters, and it wasn't all movies! Camden had its theatres in the Vaudeville days, and venues like the Arlo and the Walt Whitman, up Westfield Avenue in Pennsauken, hosted live shows right up until the end in the 1970s.

  Of course, before the age of film Camden had its share of theaters. The crown jewel of course was the Temple Theater at 415 Market Street, on ground now occupied by the United States Post Office for which the grand old palace was razed. Both the Towers and the Lyric Theaters on Broadway predated film, were able to transition, and are well remembered as movie houses. There were other theaters that did not make the switch from live entertainment to film, notable of which was the Broadway, on Broadway near Sycamore Street, where a bank building has been for many, many years.

   Of course Camden was the home of the worlds first drive-in movie, invented by Richard M. Hollingshead, whose family operated the R.M. Hollingshead Corporation chemical plant in Camden. It opened up on June 6, 1933, and remained in business for three years. Camden later had a drive-in situated between Mt. Ephraim Avenue and Crescent Boulevard, the Black Horse Twin, that stayed in operation until at least 1978. 

    It was in 1907 that Herbert Megowan (1862-1948) opened his first movie theater in Camden on the second floor of a building at the southeast corner of Broadway and Chestnut Street, over Sam Goldstein's men's furnishing store. Patrons were seated on folding wooden chairs, one reel was shown, and the price of admission was five cents. 

    After a few months at this location, Mr. Megowan moved his movie enterprise to 929 Broadway, where he had a front door location. The price of admission remained five cents.

    Other movie houses were started, and Mr. Megowan saw the necessity of adding something to the reel showing. He hired Don Travaline as pianist to play the popular songs of the day.

    Another pioneer movie operator in Camden was Harvey Flitcraft. He operated three different theaters on Broadway at different times between 1905 and his death in 1913, known as the Royal, the Casino, and Fairyland.

Bijou Dream

An Early Camden NJ
Movie Theater

 

John McGowan was the vocalist. Later, Mr. McGowan operated his third motion picture theater at the northeast corner of Broadway at Clinton Street and the fourth, The Rio, at North Twenty Seventh Street and River Road. The Rio was later acquired by the Savar Theatre Corporation, owned by Samuel and Joseph A. Varbalow.

In East Camden, Paul G. Huber operated Huber's Family Theater at 2409 Federal Street in 1918. He sold the tickets, started the player piano and started the movie. Another theater, the Crystal Palace, was open at that time at 2508 Federal Street. Both of these theaters gave way when the new Victoria Theater was built at 2516 Federal. 

2409 Federal Street

1918
Huber's Family Theater
Paul G. Huber, proprietor

Photograph  Taken circa 1918

Click on Image to Enlarge

Another Camden entrepreneur, Charles Kaufmann, built the Parkside Theater in the early 1920s. Samuel Varbalow and family owned the Savar Movie Corporation, which owned the Savar, the above-mentioned Victoria, the Rio, and the Midway theaters, among others.

Camden's flagship movie palace, the million-dollar Stanley Theater, opened in 1926. The Stanley featured top-flight live entertainment... acts very willing to come to Camden on Sunday, as Philadelphia venues were all closed that day,

Early in 1928 the "talkies" came to Camden, as the Walt Whitman Theater on Westfield Avenue, just over the city line in Pennsauken NJ, installed sound equipment.

After World War II, with the advent of television and especially with an improved economy that put more people in automobiles, neighborhood theaters slowly began to close their doors across America. By May of 1964 there were only four movie theaters open in Camden- the Stanley, the Savar, the Midway, and the Arlo in East Camden. The Stanley was razed in 1965 to make way for a Holiday Inn that never came, and the Savar closed around the same time. The Midway and the Arlo limped along for years, but neither building survived the 1980s, the Arlo serving as a caterer's hall and later hosted professional wrestling events before falling to the wrecker's ball.

   Camden theaters included the following:              

  • STANLEY            BROADWAY & MARKET STREET
                            605 Market Street
  • SAVAR              633-637 MARKET STREET
  • GRAND              BROADWAY & MICKLE STREET
                            207 Broadway 
  • LYRIC (1909-1910)  515 BROADWAY
  • LYRIC (1914-1940s) BROADWAY & NEWTON STREET
                            1013-15 Broadway
  • PRINCESS           BROADWAY & CHESTNUT STREET
                            1104 Broadway
  • ROXY                 1117 Broadway
    (Previously The GARDEN)
  • BROADWAY          BROADWAY & CARMAN STREET
    (Later The MIDWAY)
  • TOWERS              BROADWAY & PINE STREET
                            704 Broadway
  • PARKSIDE            1191 HADDON AVENUE
    (Previously The FOREST HILL)
  • LIBERTY              1502-1506 MOUNT EPHRAIM 
  • STAR                  BROADWAY & VIOLA STREET
                            1842 Broadway
  • RIO                  2711 RIVER ROAD 
    (Previously The AUDITORIUM)                   

  • HUBER'S FAMILY THEATER   2403 FEDERAL STREET
  • CRYSTAL PALACE   2508 FEDERAL STREET
    (Previously The EMPIRE THEATER)
  • VICTORIA          2516 FEDERAL STREET
  • ARLO                 2600 BLOCK of WESTFIELD AVENUE
  • STANDARD          203 VINE STREET
    (Later The NORTH CAMDEN)
  • NORTH CAMDEN   203 VINE STREET
    (Previously COOPER'S POINT MOVING PICTURE PARLOR, and The STANDARD)                  
  • PLAZA                514 MARKET STREET
  • COLONIAL           516 MARKET STREET 
  • THE CASINO        403 BROADWAY 
  • THE ROYAL          935 BROADWAY 
    (Later FLITCRAFT & PAUL)
  • THE UNIQUE        941 BROADWAY 
  • DREAMLAND         515 BROADWAY 
  • DREAMLAND         1056 KAIGHN AVENUE 
  • STAR PALACE        605 BROADWAY 
  • KAIGHN PALACE     451 BROADWAY 
  • FOLZ' THEATRE     1024 BROADWAY 
  • The HIPPODROME   1014 BROADWAY 
  • MAJESTIC THEATRE 1211 BROADWAY 
  • PENN PALACE          North 27th Street & Saunders Street 
  • PYNE POINT PICTURE PARLOR
    Joseph A. Hardy        907 North 5th & Vine Streets 
  • THE ALASKA            510 MARKET STREET 
  • THE EMPIRE             1832 FILLMORE STREET 
  • THE FORREST           907 MARKET STREET 
  • PEOPLES                  1731 BROADWAY
  • PRINCETON THEATER  301 KAIGHN AVENUE
  • THE ROSEDALE         3614 FEDERAL STREET
  • THE ROYDEN            South 5th & ROYDEN STREETS
  • PASTIME THEATER     825 ELM STREET

 

IMAGES OF CAMDEN THEATERS

ELM THEATRE

Camden Post-Telegram
July 20, 1916

"Iron Claw"
a serial, Chapter 19 of 20
starring
Pearl "The Perils of Pauline" White

Towers Theatre

Broadway & Pine Street

Camden, N.J.

1917

Click on Image
to Enlarge

Above: The Stanley Theater, 1926  Above: The Stanley Theater, 1955 
(Camden Trust Bank in background)

1926

Advertisement

Stanley Theatre Program 1928
Click on Images to Enlarge

Camden Courier-Post - January 28, 1928

Camden
Courier-Post

October 30, 1931

The Century was up until its razing around the year 2002, was at White Horse Pike and Kings Highway in Audubon. The Crescent, on Mt. Ephraim Avenue, now holds a tire business. I posted this here more to denote the presence of Jed Dooley, who had some ties to Camden-

Phil Cohen

Camden Courier-Post - June 6, 1933

AUTO MOVIE THEATRE HAS PREMIERE TONIGHT

The world's first automobile movie theatre which has aroused national interest because of its basic patents and in which motor cars literally are transformed into private theatre boxes, will have its premiere performance tonight in the Camden Drive-In Theatre.

On the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, near the Central Airport, it occupies approximately
250,000 square feet and is comparable, in size, to Franklin Field. Eight semi-circular rows, each 50 feet deep, will accommodate 500 motor cars simultaneously. Motorists and their guests will see and hear talking pictures while they smoke, talk or partake of refreshments without annoying others in the aud
ience.

There is a slight incline at the front of each aisle which guarantees uninterrupted vision.

The program will be a complete talking picture show and will be changed on Wednesdays and Sundays with three evening performances daily, at 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 o'clock. 


Camden Courier-Post - June 7, 1933

MOTORISTS SEE OUTDOOR MOVIES
Initial Performance Given at Crescent Boulevard Show Place

The World's first open-air Automobile Theatre opened on Crescent Boulevard last night with more than 600 motorists attending the initial performances.           

The theatre, called the Automobile Movie Theatre, was built at an ini­tial cost of $60,000, with Richard Hollingshead, president, and W. W. Smith, treasurer of the company.

Abridged features, with all dull or uninteresting parts omitted, will be featured at the theatre, which will give three shows nightly.

The management announces beer and lunches will be on sale at the theatre beginning next week.

The entire family can attend for an admission price of $1, or at the rate of 25 cents per person. 

Camden Courier-Post
June 9, 1933

Camden Courier-Post - June 10, 1933

DRIVE-IN THEATRE BILLS 'RACING STRAIN' 3 DAYS

The premiere showing of "The Racing Strain" will be the feature attraction at the Camden Drive-In Theatre, the world's first automobile movie theatre, near Central Airport, for three days beginning tomorrow.

"The Racing Strain" features Wallace Reid, Jr., son of the famous late Paramount Picture star. It is the youngster's initial screen effort to follow in the footsteps of his father. Supporting Reid, Jr. is J. Farrell MacDonald, Dickie Moore, Phyllis Barrington, Eddie Phillips, Kit Guard, Paul Fix, Ethel Wales and others. A comedy, cartoon and Pathe News rounds out the program.

Patrons of the Camden Drive-In Theatre sit in their cars and see and hear the movies.


ASBESTOS LUMBER MAKES DEBUT HERE

Asbestos lumber made its debut in Camden with the building of the operating and screenroom of the new outdoor automobile moving picture theatre on Admiral Wilson boulevard.

Original plans called for a composition which would have required considerable painting, but the colorful effect of this new material eliminated the painting problem. This new material made in sheets 21 x 24 inches is weatherproof and fireproof. Since its erection it has been discovered that the nature of this material, because it does not vibrate, has improved the anticipated sound effects. It was supplied by the Antrim Hardware Company of Camden, who are the exclusive distributors for this new product. 

Camden
Courier-Post

June 10, 1933


Camden Courier-Post - June 21, 1933

DRIVE-IN THEATRE BILL IS 'SLIGHLTY MARRIED'

"Slightly Married," featuring Walter Byron, Evelyn Knapp, Marie Prevost, Robert Ellis, Jason Robards, Clarissa Selwynne and Phillips Smalley at the Camden Drive-In Theatre near Central Airport, the world's first automobile movie theatre with shows nightly at 8.45 and 10.15 o'c1o'ck. 

Beginning Sunday night at 8.15 and 10.15, Helen Twelvetrees' success, "Her Man," will be the feature attraction. The story of "Frankie and Johnnie" not only earned stardom for Miss Twelvetrees but brought fame to Phillips Holmes, practically unknown until his work in "Her Man." Ricardo Cortez
Marjorie Rambeau, star of "Warrior's Husband", James Gleason, Franklin Pangborn, Harry Sweet, Stanley Fields, Matthew Betz, Thelma Todd, Mike Donlin, Sally Ferguson, Blythe Daly, Ruth Hiatt, Edith Rosita, Leila Karnelly, Peggy Howard and others are in the supporting cast. 

Camden Courier-Post - June 24, 1933

Manages Whitman 

Joseph Klein, former manager of the Camden Stanley, has now transferred his activities to the Walt Whitman Theatre.

Mr. Klein, in addition to being an experienced showman, also worked as a reporter on the Atlantic City Times and New York American.

He  numbers among his acquaintances many well-known stage celebrities, having played on the stage with George Jessel in "The War Song" during its successful run in New York ·several seasons ago.

Mr. Klein, who originally comes from Atlantic City, has taken up a permanent residence in South Jersey with the idea of giving jaded theatre fans in this section of the country something worth while in stage and screen entertainment

Camden Courier-Post
August 16, 1933

Camden
Courier-Post

May 1, 1934

 

Camden
Courier-Post

May 1934

Walt Whitman Theater
46th Street & Westfield Avenue

Camden Courier-Post
February 1, 1936

ROY SMECK
Radio's Wizard of the Strings

Listen to Roy Smeck

More about
ROY SMECK

To get an all too small taste of Roy Smeck, you can download the Quicktime movie clip Those Hands. Be warned - the movie is about 3 megabytes.

Stanley Theater
Broadway & Market Street 

Camden Courier-Post
February 1, 1936

EL BRENDEL

 

Broadway Theater
Broadway & Carman Street 

Camden Courier-Post
February 1, 1936

Charles "Buddy" Rogers
in
DANCE BAND
with
June Clyde

GYPSY NINA
Radio's International Favorite
ALSO
STEVE EVANS

 

 

Grand Theater

Broadway & Mickle Street

Camden Courier-Post

August 1936

Stanley Theater

605 Market Street

Camden Courier-Post

August 1936

More about Charlie Chase

Camden Courier-Post * August 31, 1936
Modernity in Camden Playhouse

August 1937- Courier-Post newsboys were treated
to the Broadway Theater to see the movie Slave Ship

Camden Courier-Post * August 14, 1936

Camden
Courier-Post
June 29, 1939
&
June 30, 1939

At The Lyric

Click on Image
to Enlarge

October 1939 - Street Advertising

The photo was taken by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration.
My best guess is that this was taken around South 2nd Street, below Mickle Street.

Click on Image to Enlarge

2516
Federal Street

The Victoria Theater
1941
Samuel Varbalow
Joseph A. Varbalow

Click on Image to Enlarge

Franchot Tone
in
TRAIL OF THE VIGILANTES
with
Peggy Moran

2500 to 2516
Federal Street

1941

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Click Here to Supersize

 

 

 

 

Camden Courier-Post
July 25, 1941

 

 

 

 


Camden Courier-Post * July 25, 1941
...continued...
 

Camden Courier-Post * August 13, 1942


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


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finis

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GRAND THEATER -1945 NEW LYRIC THEATER - 1944

GRAND THEATER -1945

TOWERS THEATER -1950
photo courtesy of Robert & Jane Hamilton
Click on Image to Enlarge

Camden Courier-Post - January 29, 1951

MIDWAY THEATER

OPENING NEW MIDWAY MOVE is Mayor Brunner, who can be seen above in tape- cutting ceremony. Others in front row are, left, Arthur Smith, theatre manager, and district manager for Savar Theatre circuit, and Captain Ellison Wynn, commanding officer of the Camden Army Recruiting Station. In the rear are, left, Technical Sergeant Merle Bailey, information officer for local recruiting office, and Master Sergeant Horace A. Cooper, of the Air Force.

The ROXY THEATER - November 11, 1954

Camden Courier-Post - December 12, 1957
NORTH CAMDEN THEATER
Nicholas Pavlak - Vine Street

The SAVAR

Photo Courtesy of John Sims

The ARLO
1949

Photo Courtesy
of
Allen Hauss

The ARLO
1953

Two views of 
The ARLO
1960

Advertised in the
EAST CAMDEN NEWS
February 19, 1942

CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR ENLARGED VIEWS

Camden Courier-Post

May 4, 1934

The World's First Drive-In Movie - Camden NJ - 1933

Site of the future drive-in theater in Camden, circa 1932. This photo appears to have been taken from the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, looking north towards Marlton Avenue

The World's First Drive-In Movie
Camden NJ - 1933

Richard M. Hollingshead Jr.

The Walt Whitman Theatre
4600 Block of Westfield Avenue
Pennsauken NJ

OK..... 
it was in Pennsauken....
but it sure was close!

Click on Picture For Enlarged View

Name Unkown
North 27th Street & Harrison Avenue
Cramer Hill

Photo by Bernie Rieck

"This wooden building is long gone. When I enlarged the photo I could just make out the "R" located above the white double doors in the front of the building." - Bernie Rieck 

Click on Images to Enlarge

Click Here to Supersize Image

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
by James Rickenbach

I used to live directly across the street from the old wooden building. It was at 27th Street and Harrison Avenue. I grew up knowing it as the "Curtain Factory". They made the material for window shades for a company in Philadelphia. It was run by the Ott family. My father grew up in the same house and he said the entire river front lot across the street was a family type park when he was young. The wooden building was originally a dance hall. It later became a nickelodeon.

Camden Courier-Post - May 19, 1964

The Stanley would be closed and gone the following year. In the days before cable television, major sporting events would be broadcast by closed circuit television to theaters. I saw Muhammad Ali fight on closed circuit at the old Cherry Hill Arena back in the 1960s.-

        Phil Cohen
September 13, 2005

Camden Courier-Post
May 19, 1964

Camden Courier-Post
May 19, 1964

Where They Were

Click On The
Image To Enlarge

Note: Map is in Error, The North Camden & The  Standard were on and the same

If you have pictures or graphics related to any of Camden's Theaters 
or New Car dealers, and you would like to see it on this website, 
please contact me
E-Mail Phil Cohen

Where (and What) They Are - 2002

The STAR
is now the home of
JAYCEE HOUSING 
COUNSELING INC,

The ROXY
is the home of the
CAMDEN MIRACLE CENTER CHURCH

The PRINCESS
has had several businesses in its walls over the years.

In 2002 it is the home of
CLARK'S GYM

The
NORTH CAMDEN

had served as a Union Hall in the mid 1970s.
In recent years it has been the home of the
MT. ZION BAPTIST CHURCH

The
RIO

has for many years been the FAITH HOLY TEMPLE
CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST

Click On The Images For
Enlarged Views

The
LIBERTY

was acquired in the 1950s by John Okulicz, who expanded the store he had at 1508-1510 Mt. Ephraim Ave. and expanded his store into the theater building. 

The Okulicz Furniture Store was a fixture on Mt. Ephraim Ave for many years. In the 1990s a Korean-American merchant open the store as the Cambridge Discount Plaza

Click On The Images For
Enlarged Views

 


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by Mark J. Bialek
If people want to watch their favorite stars at the movies, why not relax under a star-lit canopy?" Perhaps this thought was going through Richard M. Hollingshead Jr.'s mind in the early 1930s as he perched a projector on top of the family automobile and projected movies onto a makeshift screen in the driveway of his New Jersey home. Recognizing that a car interior presented a comfortable private box from which to watch movies, Hollingshead applied for a patent for a unique type of motion picture theatre-the drive-in theatre. On May 16, 1933, patent number 1909537 was granted. Three weeks later, Hollingshead's new company, Park-In Theatres Inc., completed construction of the world's first drive-in theatre in Camden, N.J.
   On June 6, 1933, the Camden Drive-In Theatre admitted its first patrons. The ticket price was 25 cents per car, plus 25 cents per person. And the opening attraction was "Wife Beware," a second-run feature from 1932. Even then, drive-in theatres were regarded as "second-run" operations, a reputation that would plague them for years.
   Hollingshead targeted his invention not just at regular moviegoers but at individuals who couldn't readily drop what they were doing to go and see a film. That group included families with small children (up to 40 percent of the population at the time); people who did not have proper attire for a social event; people turned off by parking problems and fees; and those with disabilities-moviegoers that many indoor theatres have had a difficult time providing for today.
   The Camden drive-in boasted a 335 car capacity on a site that measured 500 feet by 600 feet. It had three 10-foot directional baffle speakers powered by RCA High Fidelity sound equipment. The speakers were placed at appropriate angles so that the sound would overlap. Unfortunately, those sitting at the back experienced a slight sound delay. It wasn't until later in the '30s, when the in-car speaker was introduced, that the listening experience improved.
   After the Camden Drive-In Theatre's premier, a patent battle developed between Park-In Theatres Inc. and a number of individuals and companies who had embraced this new form of movie entertainment and decided to construct their own drive-in theatres without a licensing agreement. Court rulings differed from one jurisdiction to the next. But drive-in theatres slowly began appearing all over the United States. And when a court settlement in 1949 required the major film companies to allow drive-in theatres to present first-run films, the industry exploded.
   Looking at the fate of the Camden Drive-In Theatre, which sadly closed down in 1936 after only three years in business, some people would consider it a failure. Although the drive-in theatre did sustain some casualties back then, the number of drive-in theatres in the U.S. peaked at more than 4,000 in 1958. And with its resurgence today, the drive-in theatre is more than just a passing fad, it's an American icon that has withstood the test of time and still touches the hearts of countless moviegoers.

Mark J. Bialek is president of The Drive-In Theatre Fan Club in Baltimore, Md.


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