In a pre-pandemic world, a wee ritual my flatmate and I had practiced every fortnight was to rush through the late evening traffic to catch a movie with overpriced buttered popcorn— which always smelled more delectable than they tasted. However, the lockdown brought with it the locked down theaters and I knew it would be a while before I could look up at a giant screen again while snuggling under my jacket. Months rolled by and I kept reading up about the various ways drive-in movie theaters were being revived all around the world to restore some semblance of enjoying normal things and I had hopelessly longed to attend one ever since. And to my surprise, the opportunity arrived in the form of a text from a Bumble match.
Upon having asked my date how he had found out about the event, he informed me that he had found it when he was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and stumbled across a sponsored advertisement for Sunset Cinema Club. He called it “sheer luck” because he had never really googled anything related to the event or keywords corresponding to “drive-in movies in Mumbai”. However, at the Universal Square in Phoenix Palladium, Sunset Cinema Club began offering their immersive cinema watching experience starting 5 February, and it had surprisingly snuck under everyone’s radar which I thought only made the experience that much more exclusive.
Hence, having decided to partake in one of their screenings, we headed on to their website which had initially provided the line-ups for the first two weekends of February. From 5 February to 7 February the movies were The Hangover, A Star is Born, and Before Sunset which had seemed like a bit of a mismatched set. However, the “Valentine’s Special” line-up was a little more cohesive, with Notting Hill on 12 February followed by The Proposal and 500 Days of Summer. After a quick confirmation— and Before Sunset having been sold out— we decided to watch the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga film, A Star is Born. The website also provided certain safety guidelines alongside asking patrons to arrive by 7 PM because the movie would begin around fifteen minutes after that.
On the day of the movie, while we had arrived at Phoenix before time and were ambitious of finding front row parking, navigating to the spot of the movie was a bit of a challenge. Although the security personnel at the main entrance had given us vague directions to reach the spot, we had to ask other staff for directions along the way but they seemed to have been unaware of any such event. Upon calling up the customer care number of Sunset Cinema Club, I found that their executives were busy assisting what I am guessing were other such queries. Right then we found a Palladium security personnel who guided us to exactly where we needed to be and we arrived well before the movie started.
At the entrance of the drive-in lot, our names were cross-checked, our temperatures taken and our vehicle was assisted to the only open parking spot in the second row of a total of twenty-four spots. Once we had settled in, a staff member asked us to tune our radios to prepare for when the movie would start. Shortly after, an F&B staff arrived to hand us the menu which was promising, albeit a little short.
is patience a virtue?
We sat inside the car looking up at the screen perched up against the ivy-covered fence, on either side of which were cardboard cut-outs of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Silk with light-up signs that read “How far will you go for love?” while the screen maintained a constant slideshow of quirky copies like “Calories don’t count on the weekends. Order our F&B by turning on your blinkers” and Covid safety guidelines interspersed by Palladium’s advertisements while the radio played a piece of steady elevator music as fillers. Following a series of several Valentine’s-themed Dairy Milk Silk advertisements, the movie finally began fifteen minutes later than we were promised.
Lights, Camera, Action
Having never had seen A Star is Born, our first viewing experience of the movie was a pleasant one with no interruptions or technical glitches. Although, forty-five minutes into the movie when we had begun feeling a little peckish, we had turned on the blinkers to try to summon the F&B staff. When no one took notice, we had to step out of the vehicle to place our order, which was a bit of an unfortunate interruption. However, the second time around we had kept the blinkers on for a little longer which worked just fine in getting the deed done.
Apart from an intermission which had taken me by surprise by virtue of the fact that I hadn’t set foot in an actual movie theater in about a year, and a disruption caused by a stranger (because of what we figured was a mindless confusion on their part) right in the middle of Bradley Cooper’s emotional breakthrough in the last half of the movie, the overall drive-in experience was fun, fulfilling and worth the little hassle we had taken and I cannot wait for a second helping.