Sunset Drive-In

555 Israel Road SW,
Tumwater, WA 98501

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Property layout

The Sunset Drive-In operated from September 2, 1949 when it opened with Loretta Young in “Mother is a Freshman” & Randolph Scott in “Canadian Pacific”. It was closed at the end of the 1986 season. It used it’s original Brenkert BX-80 projectors and RCA sound system throughout it’s life.

The screen was a wooden structure using telephone poles for basic support. The picture area was 40 feet high by 94 feet wide. It had asbestos tiles for the picture area.

The theater was demolished in 1987 and was replaced with Tumwater City Hall which now occupies the site. The original driveway of the theater now takes you to the Timberland Regional Library next door to the City Hall.

Contributed by Ken Layton

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

KenLayton
KenLayton on June 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Nearby theaters: Regal Martin Village 16, Lacey Drive-in, Capitol Theater, State Theater, Avalon Theater, Rex Theater, Ray Theater, Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Century Olympia 14, Skyline Drive-in, Shelton Cinemas, Yelm Cinemas.

KenLayton
KenLayton on August 17, 2011 at 12:33 am

1949 to 1951 Berg & Miller owned the theater.

1951 to 1954 United Drive-ins owned the theater.

1954 to 1977 The Zabel family owned the theater.

1977 to 1986 Tom Moyer’s Luxury Theatres owned the theater.

KenLayton
KenLayton on August 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Aerial picture of the theater in 1957. This was long before the Tumwater High School was built across the street from the theater. Here is the link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/58299528@N05/5375209553/

KenLayton
KenLayton on December 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm

The Point Tavern, which at one time hosted the theater marquee on top of it’s building, has been torn down and replaced with a brand new 7-11 store.

KenLayton
KenLayton on January 4, 2015 at 10:34 pm

I have now added the hand drawn map of the property I made.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on March 23, 2020 at 9:44 pm

Opened with “Mother is a freshman” and “Canadian Pacific”.

fmccaslin
fmccaslin on April 22, 2020 at 1:53 pm

I have added several photos from the Joe Basil collection. Joe managed the Sunset from about 1952-54 for United Drive-Ins, of which his father, A. G. Basil, of Raymond, WA was a partner. I was a ten year old kid at the time and spent many happy times at the Sunset, including a trip to the top of the screen on one occasion! Joe passed away in 2013 and I ended up with the old Sunset negatives. Finally got around to scanning them and finding this site to post them. I am delighted to have a place to share them after so many years have passed by.

KenLayton
KenLayton on April 22, 2020 at 10:35 pm

Thanks for posting those pictures. They are so crystal clear. Do you have any more? I spent ten years working there before it closed.

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