The drive-in movie theater, a 1930s American invention, made a very quick comeback during the pandemic. Some of us might have fond memories of drive-ins under the stars. Piling into Volvo station wagons (or the like), packed tighter than sardines next to our siblings, cozy in our jammies and clutching favorite blankets or bears. We may not have stayed awake for the entire show, more than likely falling asleep facedown on our Milky Way, but catching a drive-in was a summertime favorite. One we can pass on to our own little movie-goers.
We’re lucky to have a couple of traditional legacy drive-in theaters in the Seattle area, as well as newcomer drive-ins from organizations that made a quick pandemic pivot, serving families’ needs for COVID-safe entertainment. And the audio has also been drastically improved, since all drive-ins now use dedicated FM stations to provide the sound.
—Make sure to check what’s playing before packing up and heading out. Don’t make the mistake my friend’s parents made back in the day and bring your kindergartner to see “The Exorcist.”
—Shows begin at dusk, and plan to arrive ahead of time. Some drive-in movie theaters have snack stands (and other entertainment while you wait), but bring coloring books or a deck of cards to help pass the time.
—Not all drive-ins allow outside food, so please check the policy if you want to bring a picnic. And look at the posted rules online first if your dog wants to come along, too.
Here are 7 drive-in movie theaters around the Seattle area:
The BECU Movies event was going strong at Marymoor Park each summer before the pandemic hit – for people with picnic blankets and portable chairs. With a quick change, it’s been repurposed as a drive-in.
Find it: 6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond
Days: April 20 to July 29.
Ticket price: $30 per carload. Purchase online.
Concessions: Yes, from multiple food trucks. Also: ice cream and cupcakes for sale.
This nonprofit weekly drive-in event started funding extra time for staff members whose hours were cut during the pandemic.
Find it: 3549 West Lake Sammamish Parkway SE, Bellevue
Days: Saturdays. Film begins at dusk.
Ticket price: Free, but donations are encouraged. $25 per car is suggested. Reserve tickets and donate online.
Concessions: Yes, including themed treats for summertime children’s nights (think green alien popcorn with “Toy Story”). Other concessions available include hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, ice cream, candy and beverages.
**Update** Discover Burien Drive-In is taking a break, and will return in August when the sun starts setting earlier.
Find it: 610 SW 153rd St., Burien
Days: Generally, between March and October on Saturday nights. On a break in July, will resume August 2021.
Ticket price: $25 per car. $50 for VIP car tickets, which include a reusable picnic snack pack and other goodies.
Buy ahead? Yes, online. Advance tickets required.
Since 1949! Three screens play three sets of double features at a time, but you do have to stick to one set only.
Find it: Highway 3, near the Bremerton Airport, Bremerton
Days: Usually March through September, Friday through Sunday. Showtime at dusk.
Ticket price: All prices are for a double feature, an old-school drive-in tradition. General admission: $10. Children 12 and under and seniors 55 and up: $7. Free for kids 4 and under. Tickets available online.
Concessions: Yes, including burgers, fries and pizza dogs. Online ordering available for large orders. Pagers available for pickups.
An Oak Harbor family favorite since 1959! There’s an arcade on the premises, as well as a go-kart track. Movies are on a first come, first served basis, and the box office opens at 4 (along with go karts, snack bar, and arcade), and first show starts at dusk.
Find it: 1403 N. Monroe Landing Rd., Oak Harbor
Days: Every day but Wednesdays. First movie starts at dusk.
Ticket price (by credit card): It’s a double feature! Adult, 11 and up, $7. Child, 5 to 10: $1.50. 4 and under: Free.
Concessions: Yes. Pizza, popcorn, Philly cheesesteaks and churros.
Farther afield: Two more classic drive-ins on the Olympic Peninsula:
Skyline Drive-In Theater (since 1964)
182 SE Brewer Road, Shelton
Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In (since 1953)
210 Theatre Road, Port Townsend
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