SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE DRIVE-IN?
Adapt or die. Whether uttered by Brad Pitt’s character in Moneyball, or misattributed to Charles Darwin on #inspo Instagram posts, the notion holds true: being adaptable to change can prove more valuable than intelligence or strength, especially in times of crisis.
For the most part, we’re not talking about literal death but the demise of a business, an institution, an idea.
“Evolve or get left behind” is another favourite in business circles. It’s a tad less dramatic – which I prefer – but just as easy to write off as cliché. But perhaps clichés are what we need right now: a morsel of familiarity in an increasingly alien environment.
We also need a good dose of logic. Not only for the health, wellbeing and general survival of our species, but for the survival of businesses too.
Take The Luna Cinema, for example. Dreamt up by former actor George Wood whilst recovering from a motorcycle accident, Luna’s open-air cinema experience has become a staple of the summer for thousands of movie fans for more than a decade now. Boasting beautiful venues such as Hampton Court Palace, Guildford Cathedral and Castle Howard, it’s easy to see the appeal - despite the unfavourable odds of inclement weather.
Families, friends and first dates alike gathered with blankets and picnic hampers to while away an evening under the stars for screenings such as Dirty Dancing, The Greatest Showman, Jurassic Park or, my personal favourite, Back to the Future. For the especially adventurous, you could enjoy the ominous notes of “Jaws” approaching from the comfort of your own dinghy on Brockwell Lido.
But that was before.
Suddenly, the idea of huddling together amongst hordes of strangers lost its appeal. It was no longer a fun, relaxing way to enjoy the fresh air on a Friday night. It was a potential death trap.
But Luna weren’t about to go down without a fight. Before you could say “They’re gonna need a bigger boat”, The Luna Drive In Cinema was born.
A short promotional video on their website depicts personal speaker systems, dedicated parking spaces and masked staff on scooters delivering Nutella-filled crepes to car windows.
For those with cash to splash, you can even spend the night sipping prosecco on the back of a Mitsubishi pickup truck. Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say…
Living in rural Wales, it’s unlikely I’ll be partaking anytime soon. Luna are hosting drive-in events at four venues – Gunnersbury Park in West London, Tatton Park in Cheshire, Harewood House in Leeds and Warwick Castle in, err, Warwick – none of which are on my doorstep. But I don’t need to attend to appreciate the quick-thinking initiative and sheer effort involved in making the drive-in option a reality.
Designing a new logo, launching a website, liaising with venues, adopting strict new practices to ensure customer safety... these aren’t “easy fixes”, but the product of a concerted effort to pivot instead of staying put. Adapting, instead of dying.
And it’s not just The Luna Cinema. Thousands of businesses – and individuals - up and down the country are transforming their offering, if only to keep their heads above water until the day when normal service resumes. If it ever does.
That, to me, is inspiring. Far more than the platitudes pedalled out by politicians or the so-called “thought leaders” of LinkedIn and the like. Stories of real people, adapting to survive in the face of adversity – whether by learning a new skill, taking a different career path or fundamentally changing how their company operates.
For The Luna Cinema, at least, COVID-19 seemingly represents an unexpected intermission rather than “The End”. From August to October 2020, the “normal” events are back up and running with socially-distanced screenings taking place across the country. According to their website:
"We’ve thought long and hard about the best way to bring cinema back whilst adhering to social distancing measures and are very pleased to have come up with the ultimate socially distanced open-air cinema experience.
"All ticket booking groups will be assigned a pitch that will have chairs pre-laid out in it to allow for social distancing. The Luna experience this summer will be a fully seated one, so there’s no need to worry about bringing your own, we’ve got you covered!"
It is possible to book either a 2 or 4-person pitch, with the merging of pitches – and moving of chairs - rightfully prohibited. An arrival slot will also be assigned upon booking, to reduce queuing times on entering the venue. It all sounds refreshingly logical.
But despite an extensive FAQ section on their website, a key question remains: is it worth it? Can it genuinely be safe, financially viable and - dare I say it - fun? We’re not all good-looking, convertible-driving teenagers in sunny California, after all. Only time will tell, but good on them for trying!
In the meantime, the Lamb family will continue to reap the benefits of my slightly-less-glamourous-but-still-pretty-cool solution: a DIY outdoor cinema in our back garden. I bought the kit last year – including a 20-foot inflatable screen – and it has proved to be a godsend for entertaining the little’uns during lockdown.
The most-played movie is the “Little Lamb Edition” of Back to the Future (I edited out the “bad bits” to make it appropriate for a 3-year old). All we need now is a pair of Little Tykes Cozy Coupes, and their Saturday night at the drive-in experience will be complete!