Celebrating Cinema Outdoors
Luna Drive In Cinema has existed for a number of years but the idea of drive in films in the UK has taken on a new significance with the regular cinemas shut currently because of the virus. Here’s Luna Cinema founder George Wood talking about what they have coming up this summer…
TRIPWIRE: The UK has never had a tradition of drive-in cinemas. So what made you feel this would work in the UK?
GEORGE WOOD: It wasn’t something we were actively planning for Luna, but is very much a reaction to the COVID situation and the fact that we have to adapt and be agile in order to bring back any form of big screen presentation.
We’d actually spent 2019 planning our biggest ever Luna outdoor cinema season to include Luna Kids, and Luna Beach, on Brighton Beach, where we had planned to screen the Euros. The football getting cancelled was a turning point as that meant no Luna Beach at all for 2020, so we turned our attentions to how we could adapt our model. At that point I started to look at how the drive-in format was working in Germany and Denmark which have both been a few weeks ahead of the UK during this situation.
Luna traditionally specialises in outdoor, communal cinema experiences and for years we hadn’t thought of drive in as a model we wanted to explore for the very reason that people feel quite separated from their fellow audience members and therefore it’s less communal and sociable. Of course now in 2020 it’s for that very reason that it’s the perfect form of cinema to be offering as people will feel completely safe, cocooned in their cars.
TW: Luna has existed for a number of years now. With the other cinemas closed at the moment, how has this changed the idea of a drive-in cinema currently?
GW: In many ways I see drive in now as having a vital role as being the gateway back to not only cinema but to all forms of out of home experiences and entertainment. The data suggests that people are more confident to attend drive in than anything else, so we have a real responsibility to do drive-in cinema well and safely, so they can get back to out of home activities and as a consequence regain their confidence in going to theatres, cinemas, and other entertainment forms. If we can help people to get back out there in a safe way, and have a great night out by watching films, that supports theatre and cinemas when they reopen.
TW: The films on show are quite a diverse mix of titles. How important was it to offer a mix of films?
GW: The films on show are reflective of the diversity we’d usually program for regular outdoor summer season, while ensuring there’s plenty of light-hearted and fun movies to aid a little escapism during what is a tough time for so many people at the moment.
We’re also very conscious of making sure there’s something for everyone. From award-wining new releases like Rocketman, Joker, Knives Out and the new live-action remake of Aladdin, musical favourites such as Grease and La La Land to cult classics like Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing.
TW: How did you choose the different venues for the films?
GW: We have a long history of working with some of the most prestigious and premium venues in the country, so it’s important to us that we continue this tradition with our new Drive In offering. We’ve gone with a combination of venue partners that we’ve worked with previously on our usual summer seasons (Knebworth House, Warwick Castle and Blenheim Palace), as well as a few new locations that lend themselves really nicely to the specific space, logistical and production requirements of putting on large-scale drive-in cinemas (Allianz Park and Printworks London). We’ve also got some more venue announcements on the way so keep an eye out!
TW: How have you been developing the new sound system for the new run of films?
GW: We were unsure of the quality of the sound experience when running through an FM frequency into the car radio, as many drive-in cinemas do, so have been working hard on developing a new solution that we feel will deliver the best possible reliability, clarity and sound quality. We’ve come up with a wireless speaker solution that will offer digital quality cinema sound directly into each and every car.
This will ensure a consistent quality experience for everyone, with no sound delays and no need for people to drain their car batteries by running their radios. Of course all speakers will be carefully disinfected and comprehensively cleaned between every use.
TW: What challenges has this thrown up for you in the current climate?
GW: The Luna team spend every day going over the finer details of the events. With everyone being inside cars we have a head start on social distancing, but there are other safety measures we need to look at e.g. people going for toilet breaks safely. This involves looking at the configuration of the site, creating socially distanced walkways, providing access to sanitise stations etc.
That side of things we can sort but I think the biggest challenge is that people can book hot food and drinks from their phone at the screening. The food gets delivered to them and placed on the bonnet, it’ll be American food like pizza and hot dogs.
Our staff need to move around the sites to deliver food but the spaces are vast – we’re at places like Knebworth House. So, they might need to be on roller skates or an electric scooter to get around safely and quickly and deliver food that is hot – but we are good at adapting so we’re confident we can make it work.
TW: Can you encapsulate Luna’s latest offering in one sentence?
GW: The ultimate summer-saving drive-in cinema experience for the whole family!
Visit Luna’s website for tickets and venue and film information