BY farah khalfe 3 MINUTE READ

As with most industries, the traditional movie theatre has been in a dire state since the beginning of lockdowns across the globe. 

In many countries, including South Africa, this has conjured the need for innovation and creativity from cinema companies, as the ban on large gatherings remains in full force, and an already-declining cinema industry continues to exacerbate.

To keep the cinematic experience alive, as well as offer some relief for the stalling arts and culture sector, one solution was presented by a local SME called Mother City Drive-In. The idea is to allow movie lovers the chance to get out of the house and watch a good film from the confines of their car, at a safe social distance and in line with Covid-19 regulations.

With striking surroundings all across the Cape, the company plans to alternate between different locations in and around Cape Town, with the first being the mountain-ocean vista of Clifton.

While not the first cinema of its kind in the city, Capetonians have been eagerly awaiting the nostalgic cinematic experience. However, the launch of this enterprise was earlier this month derailed by the government, as it was classed as an event category.

“Mother City Drive-in, along with multiple other SMEs, is trying to create work for the industry and a safe environment for the public. We understand that events and mass gatherings are high-risk in the current climate. We are not asking for those to be permitted, instead we ask for special dispensation and consideration to be given to drive-in events that are by nature very different to normal mass gatherings,” said Lyle Masters of Mother City Drive-In.

To combat this and gain the rights to operate, Mother City Drive-In motioned a petition for the government to allow them to move forward with the concept, and has gained wide-scale support from people on social media. However, the outcome of this has yet to be determined and the launch of the cinema is still pending.

One company that is in operation is the much-loved Galileo Cinema. Known for their outdoor, open-air cinemas throughout South Africa’s summer months, they are now operating the Galileo Drive-In at various venues. All the regular features apply – great food, a scenic backdrop and now, Covid-friendly procedures such as scanning tickets through a closed car window, no cash payments and ordering food via WhatsApp. With people eager for an evening out (despite level 3’s current 9pm curfew), business has been booming, and it has certainly brought a revived spirit to the local movie scene.

Across the world, in Germany, civilians are getting creative too. Windows Flicks is a venture launched by entrepreneur Olaf Karkhoff. It allows films to be projected on to the exteriors of residential buildings so nearby dwellers can view it from their homes or apartments.

The idea is that people can sit at an open window or on their balcony with a glass of wine and some food, enjoy the summer breeze, while having a good view of the “screen” to watch the movie. All the while, they are practising social distancing. 

“We were thinking about what we could do so that people could stay at home and be very rational about this crisis,” Karkhoff says, “but also not to be isolated, but to be in the community.”

Anyone in Berlin can apply to have their community participate, as long as they live in an area where at least 20 residential units can have an unobstructed view of a large wall. The projector, and stereo equipment, can then be fitted in one of the apartments to open out through a window. And it’s all complemented by salty kernels made by independent snack maker Knalle Popcorn, which Karkhoff’s team distributes during each showing. What’s more, this is all done for free, purely to uplift community spirit, although donations are welcome. 

It’s clear that there is still a demand for the old-school cinema experience, despite the hindrance of Covid-19 and the ease of instant streaming services. Although the industry has had to undergo a few alterations, it’s exciting to see how restrictions are continuing to serve as a catalyst for innovation.