Save the Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In in Port Townsend

Jun 6, 2014, 5:17 PM | Updated: 5:30 pm
An aerial view of the Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In in Port Townsend, surrounded by forest. (Photo ...
An aerial view of the Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In in Port Townsend, surrounded by forest. (Photo courtesy of Rick Wiley)
(Photo courtesy of Rick Wiley)

Back in the 1950’s, there were 4,000 drive-in theaters nationwide. Now there are only five drive-ins remaining in Washington state and one by one they have had to switch over from 35mm to digital if they want to continue to exist. Last year we helped save the Skyline drive-in in Shelton. Now only one drive-in in the state still has to make the digital switch: The Wheel-In motor Movie Drive-In, just outside of Port Townsend, in Jefferson County.

“My grandfather built the Wheel-In Motor Movie in 1952 and we opened in 1953 and have been operating every single summer since,” says theater manager, Rick Wiley. “So we are entering our 61st season. It’s in my blood. I was out there in a playpen before my memory even began.”

Wiley knows he’s biased but he says the theater is pretty special.

“We’re out in the woods of Jefferson County. It is a natural evergreen amphitheater. There is absolutely no ambient light; it’s either the stars or the screen. We’re also the only drive-in theater in the entire state of Washington that still maintains and puts out the classic and traditional drive-in theater speakers on the stanchion that you hang in your car.”

But unless the Wheel-In switches to digital, they cannot open this season, since 35mm films are no longer even available. So like other drive-ins and small independent theaters, they’ve turned to a Kickstarter campaign.

“We’re trying to raise $35,000. The tab for the digital conversion is more like $70,000. This goes against every principal bone in my body, a business is supposed to take care of it’s own bills. But everyone around us is doing the same thing. It’s kind of like you can’t fall on your principal sword.”

The Kickstarter campaign ends Sunday morning and Rick hopes the community will support.

“I don’t make a lot of money out there, I do it just because I love it. I have a real sense of pride when we have a full lot and we’re doing a real good job. There’s isn’t a lot of money in this thing so the margin doesn’t allow for us to be spending $60,000 rebuilding the place. In the Pacific Northwest we’re only open five months a year so the rest of the year the place sits out there and collects property tax bills. The Kickstarter thing, I hate to ask people to donate to a privately owned business, but this is a once-in-a-career type thing. We’ve been there 61 years without a hiccup. When we make this conversion we are good to go.”

Click here to donate to the Kickstarter campaign. If they get the funding on Sunday, Wiley says they’ll purchase and install the new equipment immediately so they can open up for summer.

Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle...
Rachel Belle

Belle: This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later

After 20 years in news radio, I'm leaving my post at KIRO Newsradio to focus on making my podcast "Your Last Meal" full-time!
3 months ago
emily post etiquette...
Rachel Belle

Emily Post’s “Etiquette” goes modern: Advice on pronouns, hugging

In 1922, Emily Post published her very first etiquette book. Since then, 18 editions have been published by five generations of Posts.
3 months ago
Friluftsliv...
Rachel Belle

Combat winter blues with friluftsliv, the Nordic tradition of being outside

Friluftsliv is part of the culture in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Denmark, places that are darker and colder than Seattle in winter.
3 months ago
small talk...
Rachel Belle

Most Americans hate small talk, but Seattleites continue talking about weather

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 71% said they prefer silence to small talk and 89% of Gen Z use their phones to avoid making small talk.
3 months ago
(Igordoon Primus/Unsplash)...
Rachel Belle

Seattle sperm bank in desperate need of Black donors

Only 2% of American sperm donors are Black men, which is causing a lot of heartache for women specifically looking for a Black donor. 
3 months ago
Photo courtesy of Rosie Grant...
Rachel Belle

Woman cooking recipes engraved on gravestones says they’re all ‘to die for’

You know that recipe your family requests at every holiday, potluck and birthday party? What if you had it engraved on your tombstone?
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Save the Wheel-In Motor Movie Drive-In in Port Townsend