Drive On In

Summer nights at the Blue Fox

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I miss the movies.

Oh sure, like everyone else, I’ve been streaming movies at home nearly constantly, and have gone from having an uneasy and somewhat guilt-inducing relationship with Netflix, Hulu, and the like because of their negative economic impact on movie theaters to being grateful they exist and are available to me.

It’s the experience of seeing movies the way they’re intended to be seen—on a big screen, at full volume, with an array of snacks that are as tasty as they are unhealthy—that I miss.

And because I am a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center, I miss movies from the other side of the action. I have not been inside a movie house since March 11—the longest period of time I’ve gone without darkening a theater door in almost two decades. I never thought I’d say this, but I long to scoop and butter popcorn. Right now, the thought of cleaning up a theater after a sold-out show sounds pretty dreamy. I even miss telling people where the restrooms are.

Going to the movies—even if I’m the one showing them instead of watching them—is my lifeblood. I’m pretty sure if my soul had a scent, it would be freshly popped popcorn.

What I’m saying is it’s high time I undertake a cinematic odyssey to Oak Harbor’s Blue Fox Drive-In.

I’ve written about the Blue Fox before, back when they got the go ahead to reopen and start showing movies again. Since then, they’ve honed their systems to keep traffic flowing and movies showing, while also providing audiences with the safe entertainment experience that has become a necessary fact of life in these COVID times. They’re operating at reduced capacity on a reservation-only basis, have provided clear markings to make sure people remain socially distant in common areas, have beefed up their cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and are following mask directives and expect their patrons to do the same.

Despite all of that, the Blue Fox still manages to offer the same high-quality, old-school drive-in experience that has made them a beloved part of their community and beyond, and if there’s a better way to have good, clean, safe fun during our COVID summer, I haven’t heard of it.

Best of all, a night at the drive-in feels like a return to normalcy, and even if that sensation is only temporary, it’s something most of us desperately need.

Since new releases are, well, nonexistent at this point, the Blue Fox has stocked the schedule with feel-good throwback jams that will not surprise, but are sure to delight.

Fresh off a pair of John Hughes’ classics—Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club—the Blue Fox swims into more kid-friendly cinematic waters. The first of two July 16-18 offerings is the 1994 reimagining of Our Gang, naturally dubbed Little Rascals. Spanky, Alfalfa, and the other members of the He-Man Woman Haters Club get up to all kinds of antics involving go-karts (also a popular Blue Fox staple), whoopee cushions, accidental arson and generally being shown up at every turn by Darla, before coming together for a heartwarming photo finish. The second movie in this cinematic dynamic duo features dinosaurs, but not exactly the kind-ish, gentle-ish variety found in such films as The Land Before Time and The Flinstones. Instead, moviegoers will journey to fictional Isla Soma, the sister island to fictional Isla Nublar, for Jurassic Park: The Lost World. The sequel to the exhilarating-yet-terrifying 1993 dinosaur classic is pretty much a study in “they knew better but they did it anyway” with predictably dire consequences. My takeaway: Dinosaurs are wicked awesome, but that doesn’t mean they need to be brought back from extinction, a lesson the Jurassic Park series has yet to learn.

From July 19-21, it’s an Adam Sandler takeover of the Blue Fox, which could either be very funny or very terrible with little in between. Because the drive-in does not wish to punish its audiences, it will not be showing any of the following flicks: Jack and Jill, Grown Ups, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Pixels, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Click, or any of the other truly terrible Sandler movies I mercifully left off this list because I don’t hate you. Instead, the Blue Fox has opted for two comedies that are widely acknowledged as being among the actor’s more iconic roles (save for his turn in Uncut Gems, for which he should’ve earned an Oscar nod): Happy Gilmore (pictured) and Billy Madison. Smart comedies, they are not, but hearing Sandler say, “It’s too damn hot for a penguin to be just walkin’ around here” will never not be funny.

Also worth noting: By the time you read this, ticket for Blake Shelton’s Drive-In Nights concert featuring Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins will be on sale, and even though the country superstar and his friends will not be appearing in person, this is the closest you’re likely to come to attending a country concert for a long while. The showing is expected to sell out, so plan accordingly.

For more details about Blue Fox showings, as well as reservations, snack bar offerings and go-kart info, see

More ...
Beating the Blahs
Cinematic staycations

I’ve been in denial for a minute, but early last week I finally had to admit to myself that I’ve got a case of the COVID-19 blues. I’d been able to dodge low-grade depression brought on by prolonged isolation, a vacuum of national leadership and trepidation about what the future holds…

more »
A Perfect Partnership
The Business meets Criterion

Since travel is inadvisable to impossible, I’ve recently come around in a big way to the idea of day-tripping and staycations.

Who am I trying to fool here? Anyone who knows me is well aware that exploring the nooks and crannies of my surroundings is like oxygen to me. Name a tiny town…

more »
Drive-In Dreams
Have screen, will travel

As an employee of the Pickford Film Center, the only question I have gotten more often than “When will you reopen?” has been “Can the Pickford do a drive-in while you’re closed?” That second inquiry has come both via the internet and in real life, and is typically followed by an…

more »