Why drive-in cinema is here to stay...

Is drive-in cinema here to stay?

George Wood, Luna Founder
George Wood, Luna Founder

The team behind The Luna Cinema believe it may finally have found its moment in a country which has long resisted its charms.

Drive-in cinema has persisted in others countries, most notably the States, of course. But somehow, it never really put down roots in the UK.

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All that changed last year during the pandemic. Drive-in cinema flourished up and down the country.

Luna Cinema founder George Wood is convinced we aren’t going to let it slip away this time.

George and the team are currently making their debut at Goodwood Motor Circuit with a fine line-up of films until May 5.

“I think drive-in cinema has proved the perfect format” he says.

In fact, it has been the key to all-year-round opening.

George is looking at drive-in cinema for the spring, autumn and winter (he’s just enjoyed big success with daily screenings in December). And then in the summer, he will switch back to the open-air picnic style (carless) cinema his company has been delivering ever since 2008.

For George, it all began in Australia where there was already a strong outdoor cinema tradition. “Many, many years ago I was travelling in Australia and saw open-air cinema in Sydney Harbour, and that was the first time I had seen it. And I remember thinking ‘This is amazing!’ There was nothing like it going on in the cinema in the UK where you could sit in the open and watch your favourite films and have a picnic with friends.

“I thought ‘Why don’t we do this in the UK?’ and all my Aussie friends were just saying ‘You don’t have the weather for it!’ But we do actually have a big tradition of open-air plays and open-air concerts, and they work well.

“So I just had this idea in my mind for a while and I would go back to it from time to time, and then a few years later the opportunity arose. I was an actor and I was working in London and I got knocked off my scooter and broke my leg. The doctor was saying ‘You are not going to be walking for five or six weeks’ and so I just thought ‘Right, this is the time to do it.’ I was hobbling around on crutches and put on a screening in my local park. That was 2008 in Dulwich Park in south London. They had never done anything like that before, and I remember being in hospital looking up at my leg and thinking ‘Let’s do it!’”

As George says, thank goodness he kicked off with a classic film he could later look back on with pride. He started off with Some Like It Hot – and screening it now still brings back memories of those crutches and that debut.

“And so I decided to stop the acting. Luckily I was a rubbish actor. It was lucky for everyone that I found something else. And I just sensed that there was something in this. Nobody else was doing open-air cinema at the time.”

Inevitably, the pandemic changed everything last year – and the open-air cinema had to do a swift sidestep and become drive-in cinema. But the great thing is, George believes, that the two things are sufficiently distinct, that the two can both find their home.

“Drive-in cinema is sufficiently different to open-air. It is a different brand. It is a separate thing.

“And I think drive-in cinema will survive longer than the pandemic. We will continue doing it for as long as people want it. I definitely think it is here to stay. I think the experience is really great. You get great sound. You get great films. You get great food. And it just feels so different. It is nothing like normal cinema. I think the pandemic has shown that it is a format of cinema which really should have established itself in this country years ago.”

To see the full programme, book tickets and for more information, visit www.lunadriveincinema.com.