Honk, wipe and flash! Drive-ins open up for the summer


Dom Joly says performing to a stadium full of windscreens is weird.

“If somebody told me 20 years ago when I started Trigger Happy TV that one day I would come out to a motorway car park and shout ‘Good evening Brent Cross’ to a bunch of people sitting in their cars! I don’t know what I’m doing, this whole thing is very odd”.

The 52-year-old comedian says he has no idea how the audience will react to comedy in their cars: “Are they going to be honking when they heckle? Are they going to reverse out? I don’t know. I’m going to pick on anyone with a personalised number plate. That’s my plan…

“It’s a bit weird because you won’t get to see anyone. I’m just going to assume they’re having a brilliant time unless they ram the stage or something.”

Dom Joly at The Drive-In Club
Dom Joly is performing his Holiday Snaps gig at venue

He admits reading the room will be hard: “I wonder if there’s a certain type of car that will like my humour – a Volkswagen Beetle or a Volvo? I don’t know.”

Despite the unusual nature of the job, Joly admits he’s just glad to step outside his front door: “I’ve not left home for four months. I’m just so excited that someone’s working. We’re all working.

He was less than half-way through Holiday Snaps – his first tour in 11-years – when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

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But Joly knows he’s not the only one feeling the hit: “Every day I wake up and there are theatres closing down. It’s a nightmare, the arts are just disappearing.

“And the government are just appalling. They’re making no effort towards the arts when it’s a massive economy.”

He says it’s about more than just the people on stage: “This whole drive-in season is brilliant because it’s not just employing ‘luvvies’, but it’s also employing crew. Everyone’s just happy to get out and do something.”

Grease at The Drive-In Club. Pic: Grease/Paramount/Park Circus
Talk about meta… Sandy and Danny enjoy a bit of outside action. Pic: Grease/Paramount/Park Circus

The Drive-In Club’s founder Brett Vincent agrees: “Drive-ins won’t replace cinema… As soon as cinemas are open the audience will be back in there.

“We’re just providing a stop gap to help the entertainment sector and the people that work in our business to get back to work.”

The Brent Cross multi-screen venue, which is the largest in the UK, can fit around 400 cars per show.

As well as the stand-up comics, DJs and entertainers on the stage it also employs a wealth of other staff including stewards, waiters, ticketing staff and technical crews.

Vincent says he hired around 300 people for the venture.

The Drive-In Club
Fancy a snack? Don’t worry, this guy’s got you covered

And he’s optimistic for the summer ahead: “America and Australia really took to the concept of drive-ins in the 1940s and 1950s, but now is our time to shine and show them what we can do in the UK as well”.

The site will also be hosting the UK’s first drive-in red carpet premiere later this year.

Gritty crime drama Break will get its first showing at the open-air cinema, and actress and producer Terri Dwyer says it’s a pretty exciting prospect.

“Once we got our heads around that this was what we were going to do, we really embraced it and it is exciting. I may be in a north London car park, but I am going to be dressed like I’m going to the Oscars.”

Hollyoaks star Terri Dwyer stars in and produces Break. Pic: breakfilms.co.uk

The movie also stars Rutger Hauer in his final role, which Dwyer says makes its unusual release “bittersweet”.

The Dutch actor, who’s perhaps best known for Blade Runner, passed away last summer aged 75.

Meanwhile immersive movie company Secret Cinema are taking the drive-in concept one step further.

Not content with just showing the film, they also dish up a troop of actors to bring the world of the movie direct to the audience.

Star Wars gets the Secret Cinema treatment. Pic: Mike Massaro
Star Wars gets the Secret Cinema treatment. Pic: Mike Massaro

CEO Max Alexander says: “We had this idea that if you’re going to leave the house but sit in a car to watch a movie with somebody that you’ve probably watched a lot of movies with over the last three months, it’s not enough just to go and sit in a car park next to a Tesco.”

The theatre-come-film group also promise a pre-show Zoom party, best-dressed prizes (for both audience member and car) and interactive games.

And if the thought of group participation makes you shudder, all is not lost. Alexander says: “We try to make all audience participation incredibly nonthreatening.

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“It’s not like being pulled out on stage at a comedy club and being forced to tell jokes. Our actors are adept at finding the people who want to play and giving them the opportunity to express themselves. If all you want to do is wear a hat and eat noodles, that’s fine, too.”

Break will premiere at The Drive-In Club on 22 July before rolling out at drive-ins nationwide. Shows are scheduled at the venue until mid-August.

Secret Cinema is in residency at Goodwood Motor Circuit in Chichester – kicking off with the film Rush – until the end of August.

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