Expo Center offering drive-in movies

Tickets are pre-sale only, and a maximum of 300 cars are allowed at each show.

With the coronavirus pandemic still restricting business and social events, the Enumclaw Expo Center decided to dust off an old American favorite — drive-in movies.

The first shows, which included the 1994 The Little Rascals movie and the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, were shown last weekend, June 12 and 13 respectively, but two more shows are scheduled for June 26 and 27.

Rene Popke, head of the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association, said that she’s still working on securing the license for the next two films, and expects to be able to announce them sometime this week.

“The Auburn drive-ins were a summertime favorite for me,” Popke recalled in an email interview. “I remember those hot summer nights and cruising down to Auburn for a show.”

COVID-19 affected many, if not all, Plateau businesses, but the Expo Center was especially affected, as two of Enumclaw’s largest events — the annual Scottish Highland Games and the King County Fair, which combined brings in tens of thousands of people to Enumclaw, pumps millions into the local economy, and provides the Expo Center with a major source of its operating budget — had to be canceled.

But the drive-in movies are not an attempt to claw back that lost revenue, Popke said.

“By the time we purchase licensing fees (which is based on your attendance), provide labor for parking and to be sure proper protocols are in place, and paying for the production company out of Bellingham, we barely break even,” she continued. “We are doing this as a community offering and as a safe alternative to social gatherings and events.”

When she announced that the Expo Center would soon be featuring drive-in movies over social media, the community response was overwhelming — even with a lack of concrete details, the initial post to the Expo’s Facebook page garnered over 200,000 views.

This was both good news and bad for Popke. On one hand, it appears the Expo Center will be able to host several well-attended events over the summer. But on the other, it also meant she had a lot of planning to do to make sure these drive-ins wouldn’t be like the successfully disastrous Balloon Glow event last September, which brought in thousands of people from around South King County only to be met with endlessly long lines of cars that at first were attempting to reach the Expo Center, and then leave when a last-minute storm forced the event cancellation.

“We absolutely do not want a Balloon Glow repeat with the traffic chaos,” Popke said. “The current suggested protocols around COVID-19 made it somewhat easy for us to only do a pre-sale advance purchase of the ticket to reduce touch points of cash and credit card transactions on site… we also are limited to the number of vehicles allowed on-site based on the 10 foot car spacing protocol for drive-in movies issued from our governor. This allows for 300 cars only per night.”

The films we be shown in the North Lot on a 40-foot screen that is also elevated a few more yards off the ground, and audio will be send through a FM transmitter, so sound can be heard through a car radio.

Tickets are $20 per car, and as previously mentioned, can only be bought pre-sale at www.enumclawexpo.com. There are no refunds.

The number of people in a car cannot exceed the number of seat belts, and buses or motorhomes are not allowed.

Food trucks will be on site as well.

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