For decades now, like it or loathe it, America culture has had a massive influence on us here in the UK. As a child of the 80's I couldn't imagine growing up without McDonalds birthday parties (they were better than Wimpey, fact!), New Kids on the Block, Disney and The Cosby Show. In fact American Culture continues to be a massive influence on our society today trickling in from all angles, without our knowledge or consent, but usually with some level of enjoyment.
I've visited America a few times. I love it. It is a country of continual fads. The one that I have always coveted more than any other peaked in the U.S. during the early 1960s but it wasn't as though I missed out, this fad never really took off in the UK anyway... I am of course talking about the all-great DRIVE-IN MOVIE.
My Drive-in Experience
Imagine my total glee then, when recently, I came across the Route 66 Drive-in Cinema just 45 minutes away from home! It claims to be Europe's only outdoor digital cinema experience operating from its permanent position within an industrial estate in Trafford Park.
Having never been to anything like this before I was unsure what the picture quality would be like, if the sound would be in sync and whether I'd be able to see at all through the rows of cars, so I decided to go for a classic that I know fairly well - Pretty Woman.
Now, you might not think that a wet Saturday night in an absurdly cold April would be the best day to experience an outdoor movie for the first time, and you might be right, but I have made a commitment through this blog to try 52 new things in a year and I intend to stick with it for at least more than a week so we went anyway!
Don't expect Hollywood glamour from this place - it's in the middle of an industrial park, surrounded by HGVs! There's no access to the site until the previous film has finished and when I arrived I was unsure what I was supposed to do but I followed the lead of the other 'drive-inners', turned the car around and joined a queue on the street. A drive-in employee was there to take our details within minutes (we'd booked ahead on-line) and explained that the current film was running 20 minutes late. It wasn't a big deal - the fact that the staff were efficient and attentive made a difference.
Once the gates were open we rolled in and parked in the front of just 2 rows; in total there were about 45 cars. You would probably have a good view from wherever you were in the park and we were more than satisfied with our spec. Just to give you an idea of the scale of the production - the projector is within the second storey of a mobile building and projects on to a humongous screen that fills the side of the industrial building.
The projection tower (above)
Once inside we tuned the radio in to the designated drive-in frequency so we could hear the movie sound, left our lights on so that the attendant knew to come and take our food order, reclined the seats, put our feet up on the dash and the film began...
It's Richard Gere (above) getting in to a car he can't drive in a city he doesn't know. Good job he bumps in to Julia Roberts (below), who'll help him out!
Popcorn and cans of cola were delivered to the car within half an hour of the film beginning and about half an hour after that our Domino's pizza arrived! All this was arranged through the staff when we got there but this appears to be optional. I think the hot delivered pizza and popcorn buckets lent themselves well to the overall experience but if I went again I would probably bring my own. It does not appear to be 'against the rules' to bring your own food and drink here as it is in traditional cinemas and this in itself is a draw to using this facility again.
Bucket of popcorn (above) against the backdrop of the dashboard (!) and the freshly delivered Dominoes BBQ chicken and bacon pizza (below). Hopefully next time I'll have got used to the fact that this is my blog so I should be in the pictures rather than taking them!
I needn't have worried about the quality of the viewing whatsoever. I have absolutely no complaints. Whilst I was initially surprised by the setting of the location in an industrial area, once inside its clear that it works really well and, actually, you'd be hard pushed to find a more suitable place for it. The visuals were great and the sound was perfect all within the the familiarity of my own surroundings (notice I didn't say comfort - its a KA with dodgy heating!) with the added bonus that I could sing along as loud as I liked! It was a truly chilled-out, enjoyable experience.
I will definitely be doing this again!