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Could this be Cambridge’s first drive-in cinema?




Film lovers who are missing their trips to the movie theatre, take heart – a season of outdoor cinema looks set to take place in Cambridge this summer.

Enchanted Cinema is planning to host socially distanced outdoor film viewing in deckchairs on the lawn at the Gonville Hotel opposite Parker’s Piece from July.

But they have also set their sights on an even bigger dream – a drive-in cinema for Cambridgeshire where moviegoers do not have to leave their cars and can watch a film on the big screen in complete safety.

William Morrish, founding director of Enchanted Cinema, said: “We have an eye on a few open spaces that may be suitable for a drive-in.

The Enchanted Cinema is planning drive in cinema nights as soon as they have their licence approved (35080901)
The Enchanted Cinema is planning drive in cinema nights as soon as they have their licence approved (35080901)

“The places we are looking at are very large expanses of land and it would be very simple to operate safely. You would arrive at the box office and pick up the transmitter for your car, that would be the only point of contact for the entire time. Then you drive past a bar area where you can order from your car, you then get shown to your allotted space, say row A, number four.

“If you wanted any food or drink you could send a tweet or Instagram message to your vendor and someone on a bike would come to your car and deliver it. So all the safety measures are there for this to be done instantly.”

He is hoping local councils agree with his assessment and is waiting to find out whether the new government guidelines for businesses will allow the new venture, but essentially they are ready to go.

“I can’t divulge who we are collaborating with before we have confirmed them, but we are talking to multiple venues.” says William.

With such a large venue, Enchanted Cinema would be able to use LED screens of up to 100 foot that work in daylight, so audiences could even visit for matinees.

The Enchanted Cinema (35080917)
The Enchanted Cinema (35080917)

The type of films they would choose for the drive-in are major crowd-pleasers and family-friendly movies, says William. “We are just looking at classics at the moment, such as Rocketman, Grease, Bohemian Rhapsody and Dirty Dancing. We would like to open to families during the day, perhaps with The Greatest Showman, Frozen 2 and Moana. I can imagine people watching those together on the big LED screen in the sunshine.”

Of course drive-ins are not weather dependent and so when new movies finally start being released again later in the year, it could even be a venue for new films.

“Nothing new is being released at the moment which is a shame, but down the line hopefully we can do a few premieres of films,” says William.

He added that they would aim to make the atmosphere at the drive-in “just as magical as our usual screenings”.

He explained how the set up would work: “You arrive at the location and you get shown bya steward to your place. Then there would be a big expansive field with a lot of food and drinks stalls to order from.

“Depending on the social distancing rules, we could have a picnic area with music beforehand and then we would have delivery service to your cars by bike. It would be great to facilitate these changes and bring a bit of cinematic magic back.”

The Enchanted Cinema is planning free screenings for NHS workers (35080919)
The Enchanted Cinema is planning free screenings for NHS workers (35080919)

Meanwhile, the deckchair screenings at the Gonville Hotel are planned for July and William says that seats will be placed in socially distanced household groups.

He explained: “Our public season at the Gonville Hotel will be going ahead in July with social distancing measures in place with two metre spacing and set arrival times – like a restaurant booking.

“The good thing with the Gonville is that you can arrive in the open air and get straight through into the gardens where you have your allocated seats already laid out for you, along with all your pre-booked goodies.

“There’s no need to go indoors unless you need to go to the toilet, and even then it is a vast indoor area which will be opened up to our guests, so there shouldn’t be any reason not for us to go ahead this summer.

“We’re just changing the format a bit. We will, of course wear masks, there will be health checks on staff and everything will be fully cleaned after every screening.

“We will be serving food and drinks from Cambridge independents, such as Cambridge Juice Company, Cambridge Gin and various others.

“We’re changing our format but keeping the ethos – a beautiful location, a great film, local live music, local street food, delicious drinks and treats, atmosphere, enchantment, entice, intrigue, lighting, experience.

“Adapting to the current situation means lowering our capacity, but it doesn’t mean losing any of the magic. If anything, we’ll be able to accommodate bookings more personally, making arrangements prior to the arrival of anything the guest has ordered, giving a more personal experience.

“We will be taking very strong precautions on the health and safety of customers and staff, following government guidelines and informing all guests of our own Covid-19 policy.

“We’re also looking at holding frontline workers screenings, in collaboration with the hotel, to look after those who have looked after us during these unprecedented times.”

He added: “The drive-ins will have a colourful feel – food fair meets a classic ‘40s drive-in.

“A food and bar drive-through area will be available along with picnic stop-off areas around it – all with contactless payment and social distancing measures enforced.

“The venues we are in talks with offer a range in functions, but all have vast expanses of the land, ideal for this sort of project.

“We feel offering something that can guarantee extra levels of precaution and peace of mind, while being an adventure of sorts, with the nostalgia of film and delicious food and drink, would be a lovely afternoon in these extraordinary times.”

The screenings will run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from early July although dates for particular films are yet to be set.

Films planned for the season include:

  • Romeo And Juliet
  • Parasite
  • A Star Is Born
  • Moulin Rouge!
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Rocketman
  • Grease
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Chicago
  • The Lion King
  • The Goonies
  • Rocketman
  • The Wolf Of Wall Street
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Rocketman
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Shape of water
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Dirty Dancing
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Back to the Future
  • Grease
  • Forrest Gump
  • 1917
  • A Personal history of David Copperfield
  • Untouchable
  • Lion King
  • A Star Is Born
  • Pretty Woman
  • Bridesmaids
  • Little Women
  • The Greatest Showman
  • Fightclub
  • Hook
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Rocketman
  • Romeo and Juliette
  • Titanic

Visit www.enchantedcinema.co.uk to check when bookings go live.

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