Skyline Drive-In Theater in Shelton, Wash. Credit: Nikki McCoy
I’ve never seen my van so full of pillows and blankets. I’m pretty sure there was even a bean bag chair somewhere in the back. No, we weren’t going camping. My family was instead packed up for a cozy night at the Skyline Drive-In in Shelton.
At just $5 a carload, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for the old-school summer fun of watching a drive-in movie. Plus, it meant a night away from home, and we all know how precious that is these days.
Read on for our Skyline experience as well as other places around the Puget Sound region to find the ideal drive-in movie experience for your family.
Getting your tickets
For the Skyline, book your tickets online, in advance. It’s both convenient and necessary — so that the theater can limit the number of ticket sales to meet physical distancing guidelines. I ordered two tickets, one for us and one for our friends who we invited to come along and park next to us. One ticket is good for one carload.
(Note that it’s a little tricky to find on the website where to buy tickets. Look for the date you want to attend, and click on that to take you to the ticket purchase page. An email confirmation will be your ticket.)
Follow Skyline's Facebook page for movie selections and I suggest buying early, as only 150 tickets are sold for each night. (The lot’s normal capacity is 330 cars.)
Arriving and parking at the drive-in
At the entrance, show your ticket on your phone. Gates open at 7 p.m. and movies start at dusk, which is closer to the 9 p.m. hour these days. Employees direct guests to park in different locations according to the size of their vehicles. If you're planning to meet up with another family, make sure you have similar-sized vehicles to be able to park next to each other. We met our friends at a nearby gas station and caravanned into the lot. We also made sure to arrive early so we'd have lots of time to visit and settle in before showtime.
Each showing at the Skyline is a double feature, and since Hollywood is on hold, the theater is screening classics such as “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory,” “Beetlejuice” and more. We watched “The Goonies” — an 80s movie classic.
The drive-in experience
Chairs outside of vehicles are not yet permitted, so you need to sit in your car. We parked our van with the rear gate facing the screen so we could relax with the aforementioned pillows, blankets and bean bag chair. We found that having our car doors and windows open was a great way to socialize and enjoy the summer evening. Some folks sit in their truck beds; others just sit in the driver and passenger seats of their cars. Vehicles are parked a minimum of 10 feet apart.
Masks are required for anyone who leaves their vehicle, which you can do for a trip to the restroom or the snack bar, both of which are open.
Every car gets a $5 coupon for the snack bar, good for use through the 2020 season, and snacks are the main source of revenue for the theater. The snack bar takes social distancing measures seriously, with 6-feet visual guidelines, required masks and limited capacity. Our carloads sent the dads in for provisions, and they returned with armloads of popcorn, pretzels and drinks.
Once dusk settles in and the movie is about to start, tune your car radio to 89.1 FM. If your car doesn’t have an FM receiver, you can rent one from the snack bar. And if you happen to accidentally drain your car battery, helpful staff is onsite with portable battery jumpers if needed.
On the night we attended, staff wearing masks monitored the lot to help remind people about physical distancing, as needed. In my observation, families were abiding by the guidelines.
Cars can leave anytime during a movie or at the break. If you do stay for the second feature, plan for a 2 a.m. drive home. Skyline also does a Sunday Switch, with the screening order of the double feature reversed. This makes it possible to see each half of the double feature without the 2 a.m. finish time. Movies play every day of the week except Thursday and selections change weekly. Check out the Skyline’s Coming Soon page to plan ahead.
The Skyline experience was great for our family, and brought us safely together with friends. And now, much to my heart's delight, the Goonies' catchphrase “Hey you guuuuuuys” is now a common refrain in our household.
Other Western Washington drive-in movie theaters
Along with the Skyline in Shelton, we've got three other drive-in theaters operating in Washington. Pick one nearest you and enjoy a super-fun summer night!
- Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor, which brings all the nostalgia of drive-in movies, including an awesome snack bar. This theater charges per person between $1–$7, but children ages 4 and under are free.
- Rodeo Drive-In Theatre in Bremerton offers a mix of movies, mainly for a PG-13 and older audience. Tickets run $7–$10, kids ages 5 and under are free. You can order food from your car, or ahead of time through the website.
- Wheel-In Motor Movie in Port Townsend has all the amenities of the other drive-ins, and is theming their weekly movie rotations to “Greatest Drive-In All Time Hits.” A carload costs $15.
Seattle-area pop-up drive-ins for summer 2020
This is the summer to see movies from the car. Local drive-ins are popping up all over.
- Iconic Seattle restaurant Canlis hosts drive-in movies in support of the Black Farmers Collective. Unfortunately, screenings are already sold out; here's hoping Canlis repeats this excellent idea!
- Kent launches its drive-in movie series at the Showare Center starting July 8, with two showtimes nightly — the first one is bedtime-friendly!
- Cruise over to Shorewood High School in Shoreline for a pop-up summer drive-in experience.
- Marymoor Park in Redmond plays host to drive-in movie screenings Wednesdays and Thursdays in July and August. Book your carload ticket online in advance.
- Park on Haub Family Field at LeMay America's Car Museum in Tacoma for its summer drive-in movie series in July and August. Admission is free!
- The Washington State Fair offers up its third annual drive-in movie Aug. 22; admission is free but donations to the Puyallup Food Bank are requested.
If you go...
Find it: The Skyline is located at 182 S.E. Brewer Road in Shelton, Wash., just off Highway 101. Shelton is about 25 minutes from Olympia, 50 minutes from Tacoma and 90 minutes from Seattle.
Tickets: Order tickets ahead of time online; tickets sell fast. Try to arrive right when gates open at 7 p.m., especially if you're hoping to park with friends.
Food: Outside food and drinks are not permitted. Eat ahead of time or consider supporting the theater through a visit to the snack bar, which offers popcorn, candy and drinks, plus burgers and pizza.
Reminders: Bring your masks for visits to the restroom and snack bar, and practice physical distancing. Bring pillows, blankets and long sleeves — it can get cold once the sun sets!