Canlis Drive-In Theater
2576 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle
Movies showing nightly through July 3; reservations for the remainder of the series available 3 p.m. Friday, June 26, at canlis.com
Tickets: $50/car (benefit for Black Farmers Collective)
In the Before Time, back when all of us had a less intimate relationship with hand sanitizer and our own homes, Bethany and Moira frequently teamed up for Dinner at a Movie — heading off together to sit side-by-side in an actual theater, enjoying the Caesar salad at Cinemark Reserve, the fish tacos at Tin Room Tavern, and the mac-and-cheese balls (yes! Really!) during an otherwise repellent meal at Pacific Place. Now things are different, and though we recently enjoyed a remote Dinner at a Movie On Our Own Couches While We Watched Netflix Simultaneously and Texted Each Other, we jumped at the chance to put on our masks and go together to the Drive-In Theater in the parking lot at Canlis. It’s a pop-up, with all ticket proceeds benefiting Black Farmers Collective. Tickets for the rest of the series, through July 3, go on sale Friday, June 26 at 3 p.m. at canlis.com (and they’ll go very fast! Nimble up your fingers!).
Moira: It didn’t matter what movie it was. I was so excited to go out to a movie with Bethany again that I would happily have sat through, I don’t know, a superhero movie musical starring Justin Bieber. (Note to Hollywood: Please don’t make this.) Canlis is showing different movies every night, and the evening we went featured “Groundhog Day” — which Bethany and I had seen together once before, at Central Cinema a lifetime ago. (Early 2018, to be exact.) No matter: “Groundhog Day” is a perfect comedy, and a perfect movie for these times, when many of us are finding ourselves seeming to live the same day over and over. And it seemed very “Groundhog Day” that Bethany and I were repeating ourselves. Let’s go again tomorrow!
Bethany: I totally would! “Groundhog Day” resonates now in an all-new way, with its claustrophobic repetition and sense of total lack of control over one’s circumstances turned thankfully into comedy, such that stealing a truck and a groundhog makes perfect sense. Bill Murray’s charm is so evident, even when his character’s a jerk. Chris Elliott, whom we now mostly know from “Schitt’s Creek,” is low-key marvelous as Larry the cameraman (and if you haven’t seen “Cabin Boy,” you need its prodigious wackiness right now). And Andie MacDowell! The sweetness. I’d forgotten the sweetness of this movie. Things seem sweeter now …
Moira: Andie MacDowell: Hair Goals. (And yes. I almost got teary at the end.) On to logistics: Because I am now a drive-in expert, I brought a teeny radio for the soundtrack (it’s on an FM radio frequency), so we didn’t have to risk draining the battery of Bethany’s car. (Our server cheerfully told us that they have been doing several jump-starts every night; nice, but who wants to be that person who needs a jump?) The sightlines were excellent — the screen sits above a green Canlis-logo’d VW van, high amongst the trees — and we sat with the windows down and enjoyed hearing other moviegoers laughing. We were in our little bubble (neither of us left the car), but it was nice feeling like part of a crowd.
Bethany: Unlike you, Moira, I hadn’t been to a drive-in in approximately forever, and it certainly seems like the ideal entertainment form for these times — communal from a distance, definitely the most shared experience I’ve had in months.
Bethany: Canlis is going old-school-fun on the food, which felt just right (though you order online and they keep things very low-contact … I guess that also passes for fun nowadays). “Oh, they have Diet Coke! I’m so excited!” Moira exclaimed adorably — back when there was such a thing as going to the newsroom, her desk hosted an enormous pyramid of empty Diet Coke cans.
Moira: Well, I thought they were just going to have regular fancy Coke. It is Canlis, after all.
Bethany: And they did have Mexican Coke, with the good kind of sugar, which I enjoyed.
Moira: There is a bad kind of sugar?
Bethany: You Diet Coke people! We’d better leave this important discussion for another time, though … We each availed ourselves of The Drive-In Burger & Fries ($17), the former served in a proper paper envelope, all of it in a cardboard tray. The burger approximated a fast-food one, but perfected: thick patty of high-quality beef, nice pickles (which Moira picked out — to each their own), sauteed onions, that pink special sauce you’re always secretly happy to see, and sesame seed buns from Franz. I heart Franz. They’re a big bakery, but they’re our Pacific Northwest big bakery, and they make squishy hamburger buns like nobody’s business.
Moira: I will confess that I got myself hyped up to possibly have The Best Burger Ever (because I have, exactly twice in my lifetime, eaten at Canlis in a non-drive-in situation, and it was like dining with the gods). And I was a wee bit disappointed. The burger was good, but … well, I set myself up. Lesson learned: Manage your expectations. Continuing in the old-school theme, we also enjoyed ice-cream sandwiches (housemade and tasting just like the ones I remember from childhood) and popcorn.
Bethany: The fries became the undeniable highlight: very thin, super-crispy and actually good cold, which is very rare in a fry. Also lots and lots of salt — the lap of Moira’s black dress sparkled with grains of it that leaked out the bottom of the cute paper cup. Also note to everyone: Do not wear a white dress to the drive-in. Mine escaped stainage, but it was definitely touch and go.
Moira: In case any of you are wondering whether Bethany is actually mortal: She wore a white dress to a drive-in, and looked perfect at the end of the evening.
Bethany: BLUSH. It’s really just dumb luck that I didn’t end up wearing an entire Mexican Coke. Cars need more cupholders!
Bethany: For the record, there are no alcoholic beverages at the drive-in. And no, we did not bring a flask to rum up our Diet and real-sugar Cokes.
Moira: Not that we wouldn’t have enjoyed a sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist during “Groundhog Day” (MacDowell’s character’s awful-sounding favorite!?). But at the drive-in, you must respect the drive-in.
The Overall Experience
Moira: The Canlis Drive-In is undeniably expensive. But your ticket price goes to a good cause, and it’s a lovely treat to sit with a friend and get french-fry salt all over yourself while watching a classic movie. I suspect this summer that we might see more pop-up drive-ins around town (this week I heard about one in Kent, starting in July), which is something all of us deserve.
Bethany: Who would’ve ever dreamed that going to a drive-in movie would become such a joy? I’d go over and over, especially with you, Moira. I so, so hope for more.