The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of dynamics to everyday life, both good and bad. There is a saying that “perspective is everything” because, with the right perspective, great things are achieved.
A power couple took advantage of the virus, their love for film and a career in real estate development to establish New Jersey’s first black-owned drive-thru movie theatre in less than three months since the idea was conceived.
Siree and Ayana Morris found a way to blend their passion and the zeal to showcase black culture through film by opening this drive-thru cinema, Newark Moonlight Cinema, which is the first to be operated in Newark, New Jersey since the mid-1960s.
They were also inspired by the demand for black art and the recent Black Lives Matter movement to entertain the masses during this pandemic with film selections that champion the works of Black filmmakers and talents and those that feature talent from their native Newark.
According to NJ.com, the power couple was also moved to create the drive-thru experience after Ayana’s documentary “Why Is We Americans?” was screened at an outdoor film festival earlier this year.
“I’ve been wanting to open up a movie theater of my own for some years now, my husband and I have talked extensively about it, and done a lot of research,” Ayana said in a press release last month.
“We were trying to find out how to make that happen, so when I saw this, I knew it was a great opportunity for me to capitalize on and remix a goal of mine. It’s not a traditional movie theater, but it’s very close to it, so I’m excited about that.”
The movie lot, which launched in July, is located at the Newark Bears baseball stadium. Patrons can choose from a variety of food and snack options made available by the app, FanFood.
With this cinema, every seat is the best seat as the movies are screened on a 55-foot screen and all 350 cars, the capacity the stadium can take, can listen to the audio available through their car’s radio. The setting also has a block part feel to it as viewers can listen to R&B and hip-hop oldies, and nibble on their snacks or even a barbecue during the experience.
Newark Moonlight Cinema is a weekend drive-thru that shows a movie from 9 pm on Friday night, through to Sunday. So far, they have screened movies like Set It Off, Girls Trip, Just Mercy, and Creed 2 as viewers watch comfortably from their cars.
“We see a lot of ‘drive-in theaters’ are playing ‘Jaws’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ and we love those films, we’ve probably all seen them a million times by now, but those are not films that appeal to my demographic and the community that I serve,” Ayana said.
The set up meets all the COVID-19 safety protocols and guests are to wear their nose mask when outside their vehicles.
Many people lost their jobs and are out of work, so this drive-thru movie lot was a good opportunity to engage the youth with work and it will be open until early October.