Foreword by Adam Brannon: Drive-In cinema is something synonymous with American culture, but Ben Stonehouse had a vision to bring that traditional US pastime to the Blighty. I had a fascinating chat with him about the Moonlight Drive-In Cinema brand and how it came to be, which you can read in the following article.
I also enjoyed the Moonlight Drive-In Cinema experience first-hand when Movie Metropolis was offered tickets to watch Jurassic World in the UK’s City of Culture for 2017, Hull. You can read about my experience and the experiences of those I took with me early next week.
How did the Moonlight brand come about?
The brand came about after years of planning and brainstorming. I knew I wanted to bring a classic 1950s American drive-in experiences to the UK. So in December 2015 I took the plunge and left my job as an electrician and put all my time into research and developed a business plan to get funding. In March 2015 I secured funding from a private investor and then opened Moonlight Drive-in Cinema which has become the UK’s largest drive-in cinema.
How has the response been so far?
We have had a great response in all the towns and cities we have been to so far. Most people are always keen to try something that’s a little bit different and I think a drive-in cinema ticks that box.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to open more permanent locations across the UK within the next 6 – 12 months whilst continuing to offer a UK wide tour.
What is your favourite film?
I don’t know why but Twister is a firm favourite of mine.
What is your favourite snack to munch on at the cinema?
It’s got to be a classic American jumbo hotdog.
What made you decide to come to Hull?
We’ve been looking for a suitable site in Hull for some time now and we were delighted when the KCOM Lightstream Stadium agreed to be a venue. We are delighted to be bringing Moonlight to Hull in the year it is the City of Culture. Culture can be defined in many ways and we’re pleased we’re contributing to the year-long celebrations and helping to put Hull on the map.
Where are you planning on visiting next?
Following our visit to Hull we are heading to Peterborough and then York in February.
How do you think the experience differs between the UK and the US?
I think the experience is roughly the same, I get the feeling people come away with that same nostalgic feeling. We’ve had a lot of people come to try our drive-in to see how it compares; it’s like they are reliving previous trips they’ve had in America.
What has been your stand-out moment so far?
For me is has to be our opening night in July 2015. I had purchased an inflatable screen, but it wasn’t as good as I hoped and it couldn’t withstand even a 5mph wind. So on opening night with 100+ cars watching Grease the wind picked up. For the duration of the film I had eight members of staff stood behind the screen with long poles holding up the screen. It was a complete nightmare situation but I look back at that moment and laugh every time, but I also feel proud because it’s come so far since that point.