Hidden Gem: Shelton Skyline Drive-In

Editor note: The Skyline Drive-in is closed for the winter months until March 2019, except for special events. Please check their website for opening dates.

Just south of Shelton, traffic slows as motorists approach Taylor Town. Here you will find one of Mason County’s Hidden Gems – The Skyline Drive-In, one of only five remaining drive-in movie theaters in Washington State; one of less than 300 left nationwide in America.

The inspiration of friends Fred Thibodeau and Fred Hendry, Navy Shipyard workers from Bremerton, the theatre was opened in May 1964 to great excitement. Just off Hwy 101, the theatre accommodated over 350 cars and featured a full service concession stand including a “surprisingly good” burger. The theater quickly became a key location to take your date or your whole family – depending on the film. The opening night movie was Disney’s Lady and the Tramp proceeded by the cartoon Billy Budd. 

After work each day the two Freds headed to Shelton to run the theater seven days a week. Apart from a period of steamy adult movies in the 70’s, awkwardly remembered by local residents, the theater has showed feature films for over fifty years and routinely celebrate classics including a decade plus tradition of the annual showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Attendees at a feature presentation of Grease dressed the part and gathered their classic cars for the showing.

In 2005 Dorthea and Christopher Mayes purchased the Drive-In from Thibodeau promising to take care of “his baby.” “We are committed to continuing the distinctly American tradition of double features,” claimed Mayes in a recent Olympian article, “kids in their pajamas in the back seat as families watch movies under the stars.”

Five years ago the theater nearly was shut down when it was forced to modernize its screen from 35 millimeter film to digital. With a $80,000 price tag the modernization seemed almost impossible for the small theater. However, thanks to a robust Kickstarter campaign with local fundraisers as well as donations from as far away as Sweden, the funds were raised in the “nick” of time and the theater was saved. “(The theater) is a monumental part of our community,” reported Jake Luplow, a local reporter, “it allows for the ‘old’ to be renewed within each and every one of us.”

Apart from being a novel and nostalgic experience, the Skyline Drive-In is a great value.  General admission (12 and up) is $8; Children 6-11 just $3; while kids 5 and under are free. Revenue for the Skyline Drive-In is supported by the fully stocked Concession stand, so bring your appetite as well as all your friends and family. Pets are also welcome on leashes while outside your vehicle.  The show starts at dusk, rain or shine, with the movie’s soundtrack is broadcasted on a radio frequency (89.1 FM).