Port Townsend drive-in theater celebrates 60th season with party Sunday
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Wheel-In owner Rick Wiley is showing the final 35mm films at the Port Townsend drive-In theater before it goes digital next season

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — To celebrate its 60th season, which is soon to end, the Wheel-In Motor Movie will have a pre-show barbecue and prize drawing Sunday.

“We are taking advantage of the Labor Day weekend by doing something special,” said theater owner Rick Wiley, whose family has operated the drive-in since it opened in 1953.

“We wanted to give our customers a little extra.”

Hot dogs and hamburgers will be grilled outside beginning at 7 p.m. instead of being cooked inside at the snack bar. Usual snack bar prices will apply.

The theater — the only drive-in on the North Olympic Peninsula — will show a triple feature: “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2,” followed by “Iron Man 3.”

A breakfast of sausages and pancakes will be served before the final show, Wiley said.

The drive-in will close for the season Sept. 15 — the final time it will use 35mm film in anticipation of a conversion to a digital projection system when the next season begins in April.

Wiley, 56, has been around the Wheel-In all his life. The theater, which is at 210 Theater Road just south of the junction of state highways 19 and 20, was opened by his grandfather.

Wiley also owns and operates the Uptown Theatre at 1120 Lawrence St.

Currently, the Wheel-In is in the running in an Internet contest against more than 100 other drive-ins.

In the Internet contest, the top five vote-getters winning a digital projection system, which costs about $80,000.

The contest, which is sponsored by Honda Motor Co. and ends at 9 p.m. Sept. 9, does not update individual totals. A total of 1,226,412 votes had been counted as of Thursday afternoon.

Wiley doesn't expect he'll win the contest since he is competing with theaters in metropolitan areas.

“I never thought that we would win,” he said.

“But I hadn't installed my projector yet, and this is an opportunity that I decided to take advantage of that creates awareness and will allow me to network in order to lock in financing.”

Wiley said he may do a “crowd sourced” fundraising such as Kickstarter to raise a portion of the needed funds.

Part of the prize is a free screening of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” in late September, but that won't happen at his theater, Wiley said.

“When we shut down for the winter, it's over,” he said.

“I won't retool the theater just for one show.”

To cast a vote in the Internet contest, visit http://tinyurl.com/drive-incontest or text Vote60 to 444999.

Voters can cast a preference once daily on each device they own or use.

The drive-in shows movies Wednesdays through Sundays during the season.

General admission is $8.50; seniors and those 12 and younger get in for $6.50, and those younger than 6 are admitted free.

For more information, phone 360-385-0859 or visit www.ptwheelinmotormovie.com.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 29. 2013 11:07PM
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