CAMDEN, NJ — That Connect the Lots’ (CTL) drive-in movie feature was rained out to June 6 last month allowed history buffs to point out a nifty piece of trivia: it was exactly 88 years to the date the nation’s first drive-in opened in Camden.
“It was an added-bonus,” joked Vedra Chandler, Community events' manager of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.
Richard Hollingshead, who served as a sales manager at his father’s company, Whiz Auto Products in Camden, is reportedly credited with the idea of providing an open-air theater to customers who don’t even have to leave their cars to enjoy the cinema.
Comfort was on the mind of Connect the Lots (CTL) - a collaboration between Cooper's Ferry Partnership and the City of Camden - but more so safety, with COVID-19 still making large indoor gatherings a risk for families eager to visit their local theatre.
“Our response to COVID-19 has focused on adapting program content to online formats, but when Gov. [Phil] Murphy announced in May that drive-in and drive-through activities were permitted, we saw it as an opportunity to present one of our favorite events, the outdoor movie night, in an atmosphere that allows for social distancing,” said Chandler.
The first movie event sold out within 48 hours — allowing over 60 residents to watch 2019’s live-action “The Lion King” on a 40-foot inflatable screen in the parking lot adjacent to Cooper’s Poynt Waterfront park.
“After months cooped up inside with few opportunities to engage in such events, we were excited by the opportunity and community response,” Chandler added.
Additional screenings are set for July 25 and August 7.
The mayor’s office, Camden’s Department of Public Works, Camden County Police Department, the Camden Parking Authority, and the Camden Special Services District also helped in putting the event together, organizers said.
Chandler explained the initiative's goal: to repurpose vacant and under-used spaces through “artistic, cultural and recreational projects and activities.”
For tickets to the events visit www.ctlcamden.com.
Editor's Note: The July 3 screening of "Little" was postponed due to inclement weather. More details here.