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Moonlight Movies Ltd. was founded by Scarborough based entrepreneur Benjamin Stonehouse in 2014. In early-2015 a site was identified at Crossgates, just outside this North Yorkshire resort, and, in April, a request for planning permission for the establishment of a Moonlight Drive-In cinema was submitted. While that process moved forward, the drive-in opened, in July, utilising an inflatable screen and with space for up to 200 cars.
Unfortunately, in January 2016 the council rejected the application. Although 25 letters had been received in support, and tourism officials also supported it, 50 objections were received. Interestingly, the main objection was of noise, although, as the film soundtrack was played via in-car radios, this could only have been of patrons' cars arriving and leaving. The council was prepared to allow shows for up to 28 days per year without planning permission, but this was clearly not sufficient. So the company continued providing ‘pop-up’ cinema services around the country, while looking for other permanent sites.
In March 2016 one was found in Kent, at The Hop Farm family attraction just outside Paddock Wood (see separate entry).
This one, in Castleford, West Yorkshire, followed in 2018. It is based at the Diggerland family attraction, which opened at Easter 2007 and features rides themed around the construction industry. The drive-in utilises the car park once the attraction has closed each day. After try-outs with a number of temporary shows, this opened as a permanent installation in July 2018 with “The Incredibles 2”.
The set up is simple but ingenious. The huge hardboard screen is mounted on three shipping containers, stacked one on top of the other, while the projector is housed in a top floor room of the two-storey Diggerland building. Despite the long throw, the picture is sharp and clear. There’s no concession stand, while patrons can use the toilets in the Diggerland foyer. There’s also no box office, just a member of staff on foot to greet patrons, check tickets and direct them to the correct parking spaces (with large vehicles forming the ‘back row’!). As it happens, the car park slopes gently down towards the screen, which assists sight lines. The film soundtrack is accessed via the car radio, at 97.7FM. The sound comes through very clearly.
I visited on Thursday 25th October 2018, when I saw “A Star is Born”, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. At that time there was just the one screening each evening, at 6.45pm (obviously times alter dependent on the hours of darkness). Admission was by car, at £25 per vehicle. It was a very pleasant experience!
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