Ha! … and she actually thought I was taking her shopping. An evening of shopping just after payday? Not a chance! I wasn’t been mean though, it wasn’t a tease. We were heading towards the shopping centre for good reason … just not the reason she thought/hoped for. We were off to partake in a London Drive-in cinema experience.
My London Drive-in Cinema Experience
I love the movies, and luckily so does my better half. We can while away hours in front of the TV watching far off fictional lands being battled over by good and evil. Its not the healthiest of hobbies in terms of the rubbish we consume whilst watching, but we usually try to make most Wednesdays a kind of movie/date night, which is healthy for our relationship I believe.
Anyway, so to date/movie night last week, and the car park of a well known London shopping centre where I was to take in my first ever London drive-in movie experience. Not since experiencing cinema on a rooftop in Hoxton, had I been so excited to go watch a film.
How drive-in Cinema came to be
It is to a Mr Richard M. Hollingshead, Jr that we owe thanks for drive-in Cinema. Hollinghead worked for a chemical company, but in 1932 started to test outdoor theatre in his home driveway but nailing a screen to some trees and putting a projector on his car bonnet. He ran tests on sound and picture quality before applying for (August 6, 1932), and then being granted (May 16 1933) a patent of his invention.
Hollingshead’s drive-in opened in New Jersey June 6, 1933. Hollinghead advertised his drive-in with the slogan, “The whole family is welcome, regardless of how noisy the children are”.
How did we find our London drive-in experience?
I must admit to the set up being a little more basic than I had hoped for, but I think I had over-hyped it in my head, expecting to be transported back in time to a 1960’s US drive-in cinema set up. What was laid on was more than adequate to be fair, I just got caught out dreaming of another place and time.
Arriving around 30 mins before the film started, we were greeted at the site entrance where our tickets were scanned, and we were given the below info card. It detailed a few important rules, costs and the food ordering services available, but more importantly it told us what frequency to tune out radios to.
From the site entrance we were guided to our ‘seat’ by a number of high vis wearing marshals. We were pretty lucky and ended up smack bang in front of the screen. From that point on we adjusted our seats for max comfort, tuned the radio, nipped to the toilets (portaloo), ordered some popcorn and then simply waited for the show to start.
Our popcorn was ordered and delivered to our car window by rollerskating server, that was pretty cool. We alerted them to our hunger by flicking on our hazard lights for a short while. I thought this might annoy me during the movie, but like us, most others in attendance ate their treats right at the start of the film.
Once the film had started we found the need to adjust the bass and treble on our radio so that we didn’t burst our ear drums – the first slammed door in the movie almost took our heads off. I also found it weird sitting with a steering wheel between my legs, but a further seat adjustment and I was fine. From then on in it was plane sailing and we both really got into the movie.
From where our car was parked, the picture quality was great (one I gave the windscreen a quick clean), and the sound was perfectly synced. I say that from my seat in the front of the car, I’m not so sure how much I would have loved it sitting in the back. Also I’m not sure how great you’d hear in a convertible, as the screen was located quite close to the road and on more than one occasion a police van or ambulance went screaming past … but that said, it was a nice night, so I can understand why those in convertibles would have had the roof down, I can imagine it being quite a nice experience.
Once the film has ended we were guided to the site exit by marshals once more, although it was a free for all as to who went first through the exit, I thought it might have been done row by row to save any accidents.
Back on the North Circular and heading towards the beautifully light up arch of Wembley and our drive-in cinema experience was over.
What did we see?
Sin City 2 – A Dame To Kill For
I won’t spoil it by telling you anything about it.
I thought the cost was more than reasonable at £22 per car for the showing (plus your petrol money). Food and drinks were available at additional cost, but you could also take your own food and drink without any problem.
When can I take in a London Drive-in cinema experience?
The current program shows dates up until the end of September, and the website states that the experience will be open until 31st October, so a while to run yet.
Would we go again?
Yeah, totally. It took some getting used to at first, but we both really enjoyed experiencing something a little different from our normal Odeon/Vue seats on a Wednesday night. The cinema is fun, had trailers (they’re importance is not to be underestimated), and they are more local to us, but for something a bit different and an escape from our local area, the drive-in experience proved excellent. We also loved there was little difference in price, even with an Orange Wednesday code, to our usual wednesday night cinema trips, and adored that throughout the film we couldn’t hear anyone else talking, or their phones going off – which we both HATE!
We’re lucky in that we’re only 20-30 minutes drive from Brent Cross, but even if you come from further afield I think its worth it just to experience cinema in a different way, especially if you’re a movie buff.
It’s obviously dependent upon what films they decide to show, but so long as there are a few good ones being shown I think its fairly safe to say we plan to return.
Where can I take in a London Drive-in cinema experience ?
Brent Cross Shopping Centre, south car park. Easily accessible via the North Circular, and close to the tube … but little point getting the train unless you’re meeting someone with a car I guess.