Midway Drive-In

24050 Pacific Highway South,
Des Moines, WA 98198

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Boxoffice and screen

The largest single screen drive-in theater in the area. The theater has been closed for a number of years. The original wooded fencing was replaced about ten years ago with chainlink. The theater and lobby area are still standing but in a state of disrepair. The area is used every weekend for a swap meet and food is still sold out of the snack bar.

Unfortunately the swap meet closed after summer 2004 and the theater and all buildings were torn down in fall of 2005 for a new Lowes Home Improvement store.

Contributed by Marc Levick

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

kateymac01 on May 2, 2005 at 8:47 pm

When I was a little girl, I remember zipping along I-5 with my parents and trying to catch the tiniest glimpse of what was playing on the screen. It was so hard. (I did better seeing what was on the screen at the Fife drive-in.)

To this day, when I’m driving on I-5, I still look toward the Midway screen — which is more visible now that trees have been cut down between the freeway and the theater — and I always hope that magically there’ll be a movie playing on that screen.

I know that won’t happen… So sad.

kateymac01 on May 2, 2005 at 8:52 pm

The address for the Midway is 24050 Pacific Highway S. The drive-in was reportedly built in 1940.

paghat on July 5, 2005 at 3:34 pm

The screen at the Midway Drive-in was also a claustrophically skinny three-story “house” in which the manager lived in the 1960s & 1970s. It wasn’t much of a place to live in but hey, free rent. I was friends with the family when small & really liked climbing around in their skinny house. My great-grampa was the grounds cleaner & we had free popcorn up the wazoo, which was popped elsewhere & shipped in & stale as popcorn can get without turning into compost. In the 1950s many cars had “spotlights” attached to the driver-size window, & every night before the movie would start, there would be a game of “Spotlight” on the screen — a film of little moving squiggles & objects that people would follow around with their cars' spotlights.

rodeojack on October 2, 2005 at 2:42 pm

The Midway Drive-In is now history. Its weekend swap meets ended on Sunday, 9/25/05.

It stopped running film in 1987… opting instead for the big bucks they could make as a swap meet… 500 merchants in their 1,000 car field, eventually another 240 or so in an enclosed building… up to 10,000 shoppers per day. The money involved made dropping the movies an easy decision, sad though that was.

The comment about their “stale” popcorn was amusing! The chain (United Drive-Ins) doesn’t appear to have popped their own corn at any of their Washington drive-ins… at least as far as I’m aware. They purchased their corn “pre-popped” from a local concession supply company, and yes… it could sit around for quite a while before being eventually served to the customers. Believe it or not, there are still a couple of theatres around that buy their corn like that… pretty amazing, considering how sensitive today’s customers seem to be about fresh popcorn. Today, they do pop their own at the only drive-in they have left, the “Valley 6”, in Auburn, WA. The pre-popped stuff was getting pretty nasty!

The Midway screen was said to be one of the largest on the West coast, measuring 56 X 115 feet. According to one of its caretakers, it was built in the late ‘60s (the original screen burned down). Even from the back rows of the drive-in, the picture would have been comfortably large enough for viewing (is that what they did in the back row?).

All in all, it is sad to see such a well-built drive-in be replaced by something else, but it was probably inevitable. The property is surrounded by development, it was a single-screen theatre (hard to make a living at these days), and could not have been expanded or multiplexed.

kateymac01 on October 29, 2005 at 2:06 pm

My husband and I were driving down Interstate 5 today, and it appeared as though the screen and sign are gone. Am I right, or was I imagining things???

kateymac01 on February 22, 2006 at 1:25 pm

FYI: The screen/sign are gone, and construction has begun on the new Lowes store. I couldn’t believe how sad it made me to not see that screen as I drove down Interstate 5.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on April 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Not listed in my 1956 Motion Picture Almanac,could be listed by another nearby city?

rivest266 on January 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm

This opened as Northwest Motor-In theatre on April 29th, 1942 and renamed in 1950 as Midway Drive-In.

thomas_jarvis on May 21, 2013 at 10:53 am

I worked at midway drive-in from 1976-1978 as a field man, one of my best memories of my first jobs, lots of fun. I remember when Corvette Summer with Mark Hamill came out and the car that was used in the move came to the theater on opening night. Busted a lot of people for drinking kept the beer and we drank it ourselves.

Seattleprojectionist on December 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I was a fill in projectionist on several occasions between 1981 and about 1991 at the Midway. It was always a pleasure to work a drive in, most of my career was spent in the multiplexes. The screen at the Midway faced East, the screen at the Aurora Drive In in North Seattle (operated by Pacific Theatres as well) faced to the West. The two theatres often had identical bookings as they were far enough apart so as to not be in competition with one another. The show at the Midway could start 30 – 40 earlier each night as the setting sun was behind the screen rather than shining on it. In the Summer of 1981, I was working both theatres and appreciated the earlier start at the Midway.

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