A Black-owned drive-in movie theater in New Jersey that opened during the height of the pandemic has no plans of closing as their business thrives in a social distancing society.
Co-founders and husband-and-wife Ayana Morris and Siree Morris opened Newark Moonlight Cinema after seeing an opportunity while a pandemic plagued the world. Through the drive-in service, one of the few Black-owned theaters in the country, they were able to host over 20,000 cars during 2020, CNBC reports.
While many small businesses struggle to make it as the pandemic looms on, Newark Moonlight Cinema is building its community-driven business to stand the test of time.
“We’re able to allow our patrons to naturally social distance … you can be with the people that you’re already quarantining with, you feel comfortable with the people you live with,” Ayana Morris said. “You come down in your car, and you have a great experience watching a movie.”
The Black-owned drive-in screens classic films and cult favorites that highlight African American filmmakers and actors. Last month they announced that they would be re-opening for a second season, Patch reports.
After a year of operation, Newark Moonlight Cinema has secured sponsorship from Amazon and Prudential. As a filmmaker herself, Ayanna says they have plans of modernizing their drive-in experience post-COVID.
“I know that movie theaters are a thing; drive-ins are a thing,” she said. “I think a nice combo of indoor-outdoor experiences is the smart way to go in the 21st century.”
Currently, their new drive-in experience features two 800-square-foot, container-backed viewing screens where two movies run simultaneously. The Morrises say they can host up to 300 cars per night, bringing between 600 to 800 attendees on any given evening.
“As we rise to the challenge of testing our business model through a major move, we have not wavered in our commitment to bring affordable and fun entertainment to our city,” Ayana said.
“We have also seized the moment to further demonstrate our vision by adding amenities, features, and events that enrich the experience of our patrons.”