Do you remember the summer? PSNEurope does. Sigh. PSNEurope remembers those long evenings when you could sit in the park till late, nibble your scotch egg, sip your pinot grigio and – if you were suitably informed ahead of time – watch an arthouse movie.
An evening like this one, in fact: PSNEurope is sitting in a director’s-style chair in south London’s Dulwich Park, mesmerised once again by Tornatore’s beautiful Cinema Paradiso, currently being projected onto a 10m by 6m inflatable screen. Those who know the movie will recall the scene where old man Alfredo projects a classic romantic movie on to the wall of a nearby apartment block for an audience of locals. This screening couldn’t be more “meta” if organiser The Luna Cinema tried…
An idea which began with a bike accident eight years ago, The Luna Cinema has been a phenomenal success story. George Wood, a 26-year-old actor incapacitated for several months by a broken leg, wondered what it might be like to show classic, cult and arthouse films to a paying audience at a chic venue al fresco, as he’d witnessed in Sydney, Australia. His lightbulb moment quickly caught on: within a year, his business was hosting 15 screenings in and around London. A name change to The Luna Cinema in 2011 saw screenings swell to 125 in 2015, at venues as diverse as Hampton Court, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, One New Change in St Pauls and Brockley Lido (…where they showed – what else? – Jaws. Did someone say “meta”?).
“It was far more straightforward to get venues on board than it should have been,” admits Wood. “They’d tried open air theatre before, but not open air cinema, so they were willing to give it a go."
What’s more, TLC has attracted sponsorship from the likes of DoubleTree Hilton, Estrella, Starbuck’s and – yes! – Branston Pickle. The operation now runs its own mobile bar.
“A key factor as we’ve grown,” continues Wood, “is that we turn up, set up in two-and-a-half hours, and don’t stay overnight; we are low impact – minimal impact, in fact – for the venue.”
Tom Barton takes over the story in Dulwich Park. “One New Change shopping centre was 200 people; Leeds Castle is the biggest venue, with around 3,000.” Barton is the event production manager for the “Home Counties” arm of TLC: it’s only with the big expansion in 2015 that the entrepreneurial outfit has set up a touring wing, to cover Cardiff, Edinburgh, Isle of Wight and more.
Key to touring and keeping it low impact has been the purchase of a Nexo GEO M6 system from distributor Orbital Sound. The M6 can be scaled from a groundstack on top of the LS18 subs, to the 6-per-side version seen in Dulwich tonight, to a maximum of 12 per side for the bigger performances, such as Hampton Court. Do the math: with two TLC outfits, that was a hefty 48-box purchase from Orbital.
“For the size of the box I think it’s incredible,” says Barton. “For us, size is a big thing. They don’t take up masses of space. M6 is minimal but packs a punch.”
The loudspeaker throw required is between 60 and 80m, he notes. “We’re not looking at high SPL, it’s more about throw and coverage. But when you do want it to be loud, the M6 can do that as well. Plus the size means it travels well.”
In another tent to the left of the inflatable screen, away from public gaze, is the technical heart of the enterprise. Here you’ll find two Blu-Ray players running the evening’s movie of choice – Back to the Future also featured this summer, no surprises there – backed up by two DVD-players, a couple of custom switching boxes and two Mac Minis paired with MOTU interfaces. Figure 53’s QLab software drives the show, piloting the I/O (the movie, the microphone announcements, the sponsors’ advert presentations, the iTunes playlists) between Yamaha RIO Dante interfaces, the Yamaha QL1 desk and the Nexo amps. The Dante network means that set up is “super quick” mentions Barton, emphasising Wood’s earlier point.
“What I’ve found recently,” adds Wood, "is venues like what we do because we take on all the risk – so they can add something to their bottom line.”
“Plus,” he says, “venues who are participating are like a calling card for other venues.” Wood doesn’t have to ask famous sites if they want to show movies; they phone him instead. Hence, in 2016, you’ll see Blenheim Palace, the Tower of London, Hyland House near Chelmsford and Tatton Park coming on board – that’s more venues and 150 screenings in total.
It’s January yes, but – take a second – do you remember the summer?
Of course you do. And The Luna Cinema will make your next summer the most memorable yet.