Ocean City’s Historic Shore Drive-In

In 1954, one of the best hang-outs in Ocean City opened. It was the perfect place for a first-date, a night out on the town, some fun with the kids, or a scary and suspenseful movie… It was the Shore Drive-In.

The Shore Drive-In was built during the peak of drive-in popularity in the United States. In 1954 there were nearly 4,000 drive-ins covering the US from coast to coast. Here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Ocean City’s Shore Drive-In was a popular place in West OC.

The Shore-Drive in closed in 1976 but the remnants of the large 500-parking-spot theater still remain. If you’ve driven down Route 50 you’ve probably seen the dilapidated drive-in sign peaking through the overgrown bush on the eastbound side of the highway. The drive-in was located 3 miles west of Ocean City. The sign that is visible today used to be bright, flashy, and more than noticeable in its prime.

 


 

Today there are less than 500 drive-ins operating in the US. Many drive-ins yielded operation and closed in the 1970’s and 1980’s when today’s more traditional movie theaters advanced. The same happened to Ocean City’s Shore Drive-In.

The drive-in sits abandoned, overgrown, marshy, and untouched today. Buried deep in the woods the projection screen still stands. The original concessions stand and ticket booth are barely erected. All major structures still stand, but probably not for much longer due to exposure to the elements for such a long time. After being vacant for more than 30 years, the only true remnants belonging to the Shore Drive-In are the memories of those who parked their cars in the lot and enjoyed many movies at the hot spot.

 

 

 

The land that once was home to the theater is currently for sale. The many acres have been listed for sale for several years.  A tiny for sale sign hides under the rusted marquee hovering heavily over top.

Earlier this week, I ventured back the lane that once welcomed the public to the theater. With a love for anything nostalgic and vintage, I’ve been wanting to see this iconic spot of Ocean City history for years.  Here’s what I found:

 

 

 

After venturing through the woods for a while following paths filled with saplings and thorn bushes, I finally saw the towering projection screen that used to be covered with classic films. The screen was falling apart and rotted, but I thought it was beautiful.

 

 

While traipsing around the site, seeing leftovers from decades past was one of the best things I have done in a while. I kept picturing lines of ’57 Chevys, pink Cadillac El Dorados, and ’59 Edsels filling the stone covered lot now covered in inches of pine needles and moss.  The audio ports were still stationed every 10 feet. I imagined pulling in and claiming a space next to your best friends ride, turning up the volume on the bright lime green audio station, grabbing some buttery popcorn from the concession stand, and watching movies like “Scared Stiff”, “Planet of the Apes”, or “Valley of the Dolls”.

 

I wish the Shore Drive-In were still in action and an option for a Friday night movie. I hope that you enjoy these pictures and thought about this historic site in Ocean City as much as I do. Do you have any thoughts or memories about the old Ocean City Shore Drive-In?

9 Comments on this Post

  1. I was wondering can anyone go and have a look at the old drive in. or at least be allowed to walk up to the old drive in sign

    Reply
  2. Amanda

    Do you know if this is for sale?

    Reply
    • Joanna Laslo

      Yes, it is for sale. Listed with Beach Real Estate, Joanna Laslo, Broker 410-629-0224

      Reply
  3. I grew up with drive-in movie theaters. There were many of them scattered all over the Delmarva peninsula. The Maryland towns of Salisbury, Ocean City, Denton, and Trappe all had drive-in movie theaters, as did the Delaware towns of Delmar, Laurel, Lewes/Rehoboth, Felton, and Dover. My parents loved going to the drive-in, and we went often. When I got my drivers license at age 16 in 1971, it was not long before my friends and I had visited all of them. It’s what teenagers did back then. Sadly, in the mid to late 1970’s, they all started closing. Some people blamed movies on video. Others blamed the gas shortages of the ’70’s. Some said it was simply a change of the times. For many of them, the actual land was more valuable in the eyes of developers, and the drive-in theaters were soon replaced by real estate development. Others simply sat vacant after closing and were soon overgrown with weeds, shrubs, and trees. I am glad that I was around in the ’60’s and ’70’s when there were so many drive-in movie theaters around. It was a wonderful time.

    Reply
  4. I totally enjoyed this story! I could feel what it would have been like to be there. I remember drive in movies, but never saw this one as I was to young. Thank you for sharing this treasure with us.

    Reply
  5. Tom McNatt

    A group tried to purchase the land with the intent of reopening but the county had issues with sewer and water I believe. Shame, I think it would go over great.

    Reply
  6. Laura Simmons

    It would be wonderful for the marquee to be refurbished in the future. It would be an awesome sign post for any new Business!

    Reply
  7. Barbara Calloway Pugliese

    Great article and pictures, filled me with nostalgia. I remember my grandparents taking us in the 50’s to the Delmar Drive In. There were swings you could play on while you waited for it to get dark!!

    Reply
  8. Charles Zukas

    My family and I were vacationing in Ocean City in August of 1975. My dad, partly because we had no AC in our unit, packed us into the car and took us to the Shore Drive In theatre as a cooling alternative. I remember seeing two movies that night. I remember a film entitled “Tidal Wave”. Essentially Tokyo catches fire and a Tidal Wave comes a puts it out. I can find very little info. on this movie these days. The second, and better feature was entitled ” Emperor of the North” with Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. I have found it on eBay. The theatre closed the following year. I’ve been to the property in the last ten years with my kids. The property isn’t magical but the memories are.

    Reply

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