The drive-in cinema concept has become an extremely popular occurrence in recent years, with more and more companies offering specialist showings in popular locations in and around London.
The concept, however, is not a new one. American Richard M. Hollingshead Junior can be thanked for the idea. Working for his father’s auto parts company full time, his spare time was spent working at home on his driveway to come up with the drive-in cinema idea. Following sound tests and the like he was granted a patent before opening his own company Park-It Theatres, with the very first drive-in theatre subsequently opening in New Jersey, USA, in 1933.
A drive-in theatre is just that; it’s a large cinema screen situated outdoors that you essentially park in front of to watch a film. It has, however, evolved over the years. The days of casually driving up first come first serve (think Grease, released in 1978) have been replaced with the hi-vis cavalry directing attendees to designated parking spots. Sound has evolved, too. As you can imagine, technology has moved on somewhat since old Hollingshead Junior opened the first drive-in theatre and most drive-in theatres these days feature either your own personal headphones playing the film’s accompanying sound or it’s channelled through a specific frequency via your in-car radio.
If you’re in or around London and fancying a film then it’s worth checking out what’s on before you plan your trip. The guys behind the Roof Top Film Club have been known to host drive-in cinema London events at the Brent Cross Shopping Centre car park, but as yet there are no current upcoming dates. Same with the popular location of Alexandra Palace. There have been a number of Drive-In Film Clubs hosted in its Pavilion Car Park in previous years, but nothing as yet for 2019.
That said, having done some digging, we’ve managed to find a couple of options not too far away from London City centre:
First up is a traditional outdoor drive-in cinema which has a number of dates for various screenings including The Lost Boys and the latest hit movie The Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga. The huge 36-foot screen is situated at Barleylands Craft Village, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2UD and is around a 1-hour drive east of London City. More information about the Moonbeamers-hosted showings can be found here.
Next up is Cinestock. The independent company hosts a number of drive-in cinema showings throughout the UK. There are no dates, as yet, for its outdoor drive-in cinema events. However, its website is laced with the launch of the world’s first INDOOR drive-in movie nights, which is to involve the showing of around 30 films across 18 planned nights. Dates of which are still to be announced, but you can keep an eye on its website here for updates. The venue being the South Of England Showground, Selsfield Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH17 6TH is around a 1hour 45minute drive from London City.
Our best drive-in cinema London top tips:
First thing on the list has to be to make sure the radio in the car you’re going in works. It sounds a simple thing, but always worth a mention. If your car doesn’t have the best option in audio entertainment, it might be an option to rope in someone else who has a better sound system in theirs.
If you’re taking children with you, it’s always wise to check the rating of the film; film classification rules do still apply.
If you’re wondering whether to take your own food, rather than opting for something on-site, make sure to check with the venue before you do.
Try and get there early — around an hour before should do the trick. You’ll avoid the queues and get the best position, plus you’ll have the chance to sort yourself out with food and get comfy ready for the film to start.
To anything like this, it’s always worth having cash on you in case card payments aren’t possible. Check with the venue beforehand.
And remember, if you don’t have a car, it’s easy enough to rent one at short notice just so you can experience the wonder that is the drive-in cinema. Just simply rent a car in London.