Monday, May 05, 2014

Kent, Washington's El Rancho Drive-In

By Jack Brummet, Green River Valley Ed.

There were three drive-ins in Kent, but we mostly went to the El Rancho, because it was cheap. They showed whatever was cheap to rent, like spaghetti westerns, scary movies like I Saw What You Did And I Know Who You Are, monster movies like The Blob, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or ass-kicking movies with Billie Jack, Charles Bronson, and Clint Eastwood.

If you were lucky, you might see an R-rated potboiler by Russ Meyers, like Vixen, or The Stewardesses.  There were also the memorable exploitation movies like Wife Swappers.  This is where I saw my first Woody Allen movie—Take The Money and Run.

There were several other El Ranchos around the country.  One survives in Nevada, at 555 El Rancho Dr, Sparks, NV 89431.

There were two other drive-ins in Kent: The Midway, on West Hill, which still exists, as a swap meet location (the screen has long been dead), and the Valley Drive-in (which closed in the last two years). 

The fantastic marquee out front showed a gigantic cowboy on the range, cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. At $3.50 a carload, so you could see a movie for about seventy-five cents.

Lining the street in front of the drive in were a row of stately Lombardy poplars. The El Rancho was torn down in 1975, but you can still see a few of those poplars, in between the concrete tilt-up buildings and warehouses.

More drive-ins close every year, but a few remain in Washington State, but a few remain:

  • Samish Twin Drive-In Theater, Bellingham
  • Auto Vue Theatre, Colville
  • Dayton Drive-in Theater, Dayton
  • Puget Park Drive-In, Everett
  • Your Drive In Theatre, Longview
  • Rodeo Tri Drive-In Theatre, Port Orchard
  • Blue Fox Drive-in Theater, Oak Harbor
  • River-Vue Drive-In, Pasco
  • Skyline Drive-In Theatre, Shelton (with an actual Indian totem pole at the entrance)
  • Wheel-In Motor Movie, Port Townsend
  • Vue Dale Drive In Theatre, Wenatchee
  • Country Drive In Theatre, Yakima

one of the two murals in front of the theatre

An aerial land survey view of the El Rancho before it was demolished

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was sad to see the drive-insensitivity torn down