Good news and bad news for two popular drive-in theatres

Feb 16, 2024, 9:26 AM | Updated: 11:44 am

The Twilight Drive-In...

The Twilight Drive-In in Langley, B.C. is slated to close later this year; it opened just 19 years ago in 2005 and is the last remaining drive-in in British Columbia's Lower Mainland. (Photo via Twilight Theatre website)

(Photo via Twilight Theatre website)

This week, we have a Double Feature of Pacific Northwest cinema history, with good news for one drive-in theatre and bad news for another.

First, the good news.

KIRO Newsradio reported last month that the Auto-Vue Drive-In and the Alpine Theatre in Colville were for sale as a package deal. It was learned Thursday that a purchase offer has been accepted, and the sale is scheduled to close late next month.

Michel Pitts, real estate agent for the seller, said they are holding off on identifying the buyer or revealing much in the way of specifics until the sale closes, perhaps as soon as March 25.

In the meantime, Pitts wrote in an email, “I know the current owners are looking forward to retirement and to the fact [that] the buyer will be continuing to operate the properties as a walk-in theatre and [drive-in].”

And now, the bad news.

A few miles north of Lynden in Whatcom County, just across the Aldergrove border crossing in the Vancouver exurb of Langley, British Columbia, it’s not looking good for the Twilight Drive-In.

The Twilight Drive-In is unusual because it opened just 19 years ago in 2005. Reports are that the Twilight will close later this year, sometime after the peak summer season. KIRO Newsradio emailed and called drive-in management, but we have not yet heard back.

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When it was built, the Twilight was a replacement for The Hillcrest Drive-In, which had operated in nearby Surrey, B.C. from 1953 to 2003. In the relatively short time it’s been open, the Twilight has become the last remaining outdoor movie screen in the Lower Mainland of BC, and it’s become something of a popular destination for Vancouverites. It was also featured in an episode of the “Archie” reboot TV series “Riverdale.”

News for British Columbian drive-in fans might not be all bad. Some recent coverage in Vancouver, BC media suggests that while the Twilight may be doomed, the family who owns the business may be searching for a new location to open a successor to the Twilight.

Meanwhile, unlike four of the five drive-ins still in business in the Evergreen State, the Twilight Drive-In operates for at least a portion of the winter months. And, while most Washington drive-ins won’t open until March or even later in the spring when night-time temperatures are a bit more mild, the Twilight’s season begins tonight – Friday, February 16.

While winter at the drive-in means cold temperatures outside, it also means earlier start times for movies. As anyone who’s attended a drive-in theatre in the summertime can attest, the first feature often doesn’t start until 10:00 p.m., and the second feature might run until long after 2:00 a.m.

For tonight’s season opener at the Twilight, the first feature begins at 6:45 p.m., and the second one begins at 9:00 p.m. – which means the evening’s entertainment concludes very reasonably long before midnight.

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The double-bill tonight at the Twilight, “Madame Web” followed by “Anyone But You,” is also something of an inadvertent tribute to one of Hollywood’s emerging stars who also has direct connections to the Pacific Northwest: each film features Spokane-born and raised Sydney Sweeney.

So, while it may be the final opening night at the Twilight Drive-In in Langley, BC, it might also be considered the first night of the First Annual Sydney Sweeney Film Festival.

And, if Canada is too far away – about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Seattle, with no traffic, and not counting border wait times – the beloved Blue Fox Drive-In on Whidbey Island operates year-round and is offering the same double-bill this weekend – “Madame Web” and “Anyone But You” – for their own closer-to-home edition of the Sydney Sweeney Film Festival.

Other historic drive-in theatres in Washington which are scheduled to open later this year include:

The Skyline Drive-In in Shelton

The Wheel-In Drive-In in Port Townsend

The Rodeo Drive-In in Bremerton

The Auto-Vue Drive-In in Colville

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks here.

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Good news and bad news for two popular drive-in theatres