Get off the couch or bring it with you for a night out at the Blue Fox Drive-In

Watch a movie in the car instead of at home on the couch.

Or bring the couch to the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor.

What about it?

It sounds oh so 1970, but on this pasture it’s totally 2022.

The Blue Fox has Blockbuster, a bar, go-karts and an arcade.

Admission for our party of two adults and two grandchildren on Friday was $15 for a dual feature of the new movies “Minions” and “Thor”.

Children 5-10 years old are $1. Children 11 and older pay $6.50. People under 4 years old are free, as are dogs.

No wonder people drive for miles even though you need some pocket money here. ($7.75 for a bucket of hot buttered popcorn. $6 for a 3-pound loaf of curly fries. Yes, you read that right.)

Drive-ins have made a comeback during the pandemic as people were desperate to get out of the house.

The allure of a screen under a starry sky continues to draw newcomers, said Nick Bratt, whose parents bought the Blue Fox in 1988 and later added the arcade and go-kart track.

“We still have a lot of people telling us they’ve never been to a drive-in movie theater,” he said. “We also get a lot of follow-up orders.”

People wait for snacks at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

People wait for snacks at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

There are four other drive-in theaters in Washington, located in Port Townsend, Shelton, Bremerton and Colville. According to the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association, there were about 300 drive-in theaters nationwide as of 2021. New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and California have the most. Some states don’t have one.

The Blue Fox site opens at 4pm on weekdays or 12pm on weekends for food, fun and games. From 7 p.m., a good two hours before the start of the performance, the lawn really fills up with cars, trucks and mobile homes.

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Pets must be on a leash, children run free. cuddling teenagers. Friends set up chairs and tailgate.

“This is American history,” said Polly Grenier, a regular from Sedro-Woolley, an hour away. She came as a child and continues the tradition by bringing her three daughters with her.

Grenier recalled some of her favorite moments at Blue Fox.

At the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor, people sit on lounge chairs and watch a Looney Tunes short film.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

At the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor, people sit on lounge chairs and watch a Looney Tunes short film. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“In the ‘Top Gun’ movie, the Navy jets flew overhead. We were here when the Northern Lights were here and they had to pause the film it was so bright,” she said. “It turned up in my Facebook memories that I was here seven years ago and saw the first ‘Minions’ movie.”

She likes to joke that another memory is her eldest daughter.

“I’ll tell her she was conceived here,” she said, laughing.

People gather before a movie plays at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

People gather before a movie plays at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Drive-ins used to be the ultimate date night. The rear seats are shared between generations these days.

The Blue Fox is where Max Parkhurst celebrated his 18th birthday with friends and family.

“I like to sit in the truck and watch a movie on a big screen,” Parkhurst said. “The drive-in is just better.”

In the back of his father’s pickup truck, a giant lawn chair from home was his perch for the night. Couch cushions covered the rest of the truck bed.

Angelina Jimmy, 6, and Brandon Cayou ride a go-kart together at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Angelina Jimmy, 6, and Brandon Cayou ride a go-kart together at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater in Oak Harbor. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

People bring all comforts with them. It’s almost like glamping. Eating outside is prohibited because concessions help keep the place running. Be prepared to wait in line. There’s pizza, cheesesteaks and nachos as well as Tylenol and Tums.

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The food alone is worth the drive.

The Blue Fox, 1403 N. Monroe Landing Road, is approximately 35 miles from the Clinton Ferry Terminal. The last show ends long after the last ferry to the mainland, especially in the summer when dusk falls at 9pm

You can stay overnight if you wish. They will keep the toilets open.

The motto: “We’d rather fall here than on the way home.”

The sound is 88.7 FM on the radio. When your car battery dies, they help skip your car.

People pay for movie tickets at the window at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

People pay for movie tickets at the window at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The Backlot Tavern, a high canopy between two shipping containers, was added to Blue Fox in 2020.

“It suits a family entertainment center that tries to have it all,” said Nick Bratt. “My brother and I have convinced our people that this is the next thing we need to do as the next untapped revenue stream. There is a demand for it. My people are teetotalers, so I needed a bit of convincing.”

Ethan, Jessica and Reade McCardell have a few beers at the Backlot Tavern at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater.  The tavern was added in 2020.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Ethan, Jessica and Reade McCardell have a few beers at the Backlot Tavern at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater. The tavern was added in 2020. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Alcohol-free guests can head to the tavern to catch a movie or a game on a flat-screen TV while sipping a craft beer, wine, or cider. Unlike snack bar drinks, these cannot be taken into the car.

Before the show, Lynnwood’s Erin Gamble enjoyed a quiet moment over a beer.

“My husband and kids are on the go-karts,” she said.

It was her first time at a drive-in movie theater, but it probably won’t be her last.

People line up to collect their prizes at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater arcade.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

People line up to collect their prizes at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater arcade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

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As the evening sky turned dark, “The Star-Spangled Banner” lit up the screen and played over the speakers. A vigorous ovation of horns and clapping followed.

Then it was cartoon time.

Laurel Dixon was joined by her parents, children and grandchildren for a night of curly fries and laughter under the stars.

“It’s not your typical cinema,” said Dixon, who lives in Bellingham. “This is something completely extraordinary.”

As they and others will tell you, it’s not about the film.

Light from the projector fills the air during a screening of

Light from the projector fills the air during a screening of “Minions: The Rise of Gru” at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Minions: The Rise of Gru plays on the projection screen while the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater sign lights up at night in Oak Harbor's outdoor cinema.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Minions: The Rise of Gru plays on the projection screen while the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater sign lights up at night in Oak Harbor’s outdoor cinema. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

People sit on deck chairs and watch a Looney Tunes short film at the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater on Thursday, July 14, 2022 in Oak Harbor, Washington.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Minions: The Rise of Gru plays on the projection screen while the Blue Fox Drive-In Theater sign lights up at night in Oak Harbor’s outdoor cinema. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

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