Seattle's Child

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The Baerwaldt family gets ready to take in a screening of Back to the Future at Marymoor Park. Photo by Joshua Huston

Head to the drive-in for movies under the stars

This last-century throwback is perfect for a COVID-safe, retro big-screen experience.

The drive-in theater, a 1930s American invention, made a very quick comeback during the pandemic. Older parents likely remember the many drive-ins in the U.S. during their childhoods: kids piling into the car (often a wood-paneled station wagon) with sleeping bags, in their jammies, ready to see a movie from the car with that weird radio thingie just outside the driver’s window for sound. Very crackly sound.

If you were lucky, you’d get popcorn and candy from the snack bar and could eat it in the car, before falling asleep sideways on the seat, if your parents were lucky.

Since spring 2020, the drive-in has made a huge comeback. And in the Seattle area, we’re fortunate to have a couple of traditional legacy drive-in theaters, as well as newcomer drive-ins from organizations that made a quick pandemic pivot, serving families’ needs for COVID-safe entertainment, all sealed up in our cars. The audio has also been drastically improved, since all drive-ins now use dedicated FM stations to provide the sound.

But before you drive off to the drive-in, here’s a note: Make sure to check what’s playing before packing up your child and a teddy bear. Don’t make the mistake my friend’s parents made back in the day and bring your kindergartner to see “The Exorcist” (or another R-rated film).

And remember, you need to get there well ahead of showtime. Movies start when the sky starts to darken, which we all know can take some time in Seattle, especially in June and early July. Stay in the vehicle, except for when you head to the restroom or go to buy concessions. And if you leave the vehicle, mask up!

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.

BECU Drive-In Movies at Marymoor Park

6046 West Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond,
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.
Days: Tuesday, April 20 to Thursday, June 24.
Ticket price: $30 per carload. Purchase online.
Concessions: Yes, from multiple food trucks. Also: ice cream and cupcakes for sale.
Restrooms: Yes.

Vasa’s Drive-In Theatre
3549 West Lake Sammamish Parkway SE, Bellevue,
This nonprofit weekly drive-in event started funding extra time for staff members whose hours were cut during the pandemic.
Days: Saturdays. Film begins at dusk.
Ticket price: Free, but donations are encouraged. $25 per car is suggested.
Buy ahead? 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.
Restrooms: Yes.

Discover Burien Drive-In Theatre
610 SW 153rd St., Burien,
This weekly event is sponsored by the nonprofit economic development group Discover Burien. Touchless pre-registration.
Days: Between March and October on Saturday nights. Starts at sundown.
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.
Concessions: Yes, with touchless ordering.

Rodeo Drive-In
Highway 3, near the Bremerton Airport, Bremerton,
Since 1949! Three screens play three sets of double features at a time, but you do have to stick to one set only.
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.
Buy ahead? Tickets available online.
Concessions: Yes, including burgers, fries and pizza dogs. Online ordering available for large orders. Pagers available for pickups.
Restrooms: Yes.

Blue Fox Drive-in Theater
1403 N. Monroe Landing Rd., Oak Harbor,
Since 1959! There’s an arcade on the premises, as well as a go-kart track.
Days: Friday through Sunday. 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.
Buy ahead? No. Box office opens at 4.
Concessions: Yes. Pizza, popcorn, Philly cheesesteaks and churros.
Restrooms: Yes.

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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About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.