By Miles Fawcett
Ayana Stafford-Morris and her husband, Siree Morris, are bringing the classic drive-in movie experience to Newark. The Newark Moonlight Cinema will show a trio of Michael B. Jordan films this weekend at 54 Bridge Street. Just Mercy will be shown on July 24th, Creed 2 on July 25th, and Hardball on July 26th. Ayana, who went to Arts High School in New Jersey with Michael B. Jordan, started her drive-in vision with the goal of highlighting African American filmmakers, actors, and actresses.
The format of the screenings will be Adult oriented films on Fridays and Saturdays, and family movies on Sundays.
“Drive-in movies work well because they allow you to naturally social distance,” said Ayana. “COVID is still a real thing, but everybody wants to get out of the house, everybody wants the opportunity to do something with their family, so this is the perfect way to get out of the house, be with your family, still physically distance from other people and be able to watch a movie. It just makes sense.”
Ayana and Siree had to pass a city required COVID inspection before opening the drive-in site to patrons. The city of Newark had to make sure that the site afforded enough space for proper social distancing between patrons and inside the concessions area. Masks are required for anything done outside of vehicles, including purchasing concessions. “The city was really excited for us to bring this to Newark so they’ve been very helpful in getting us through the permitting process and licensing process.” Ayana said. “They’ve been a great partner for us.”
Ayana was inspired to start her own drive-in movie venture when her documentary “Why Is We Americans?” premiered at the Lighthouse International Film Festival earlier this year. The festival adapted the pop-up drive-in method for their screenings and Ayana thought it was a great idea. “I’ve been wanting to open up a movie theater of my own for some years now, my husband and I have talked extensively about it, and done a lot of research,” Ayana said. “We were trying to find out how to make that happen, so when I saw this I knew it was a great opportunity for me to capitalize on and remix a goal of mine. It’s not a traditional movie theater, but it’s very close to it, so I’m excited about that.”
Both Siree and Ayana are excited to bring a fresh take on the classic experience that is the drive-in movie. “A drive-in movie theater is kind of America’s Pastime” Siree said. He believes that people from his generation will enjoy it even more now. “We can social distance and pretty much have fun in a different way.”
While doing research into drive-in theaters across the country, Ayana came across a pattern. “We see a lot of (drive-in theaters) are playing Jaws and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and we love those films, we’ve probably all seen them a million times by now, but those are not films that appeal to my demographic and the community that I serve” said Ayana. Showing primarily black stories will be a refreshing change of pace that other drive-in movie experiences rarely offer.
Next weekend, starting July 31st, the Newark Moonlight Cinema will be showing Girls Trip, Set It Off, and Hairspray for their Queen Latifah lineup. They also plan to show Harlem Nights, Us, Get Out, Transformers, Queen and Slim and Princess and the Frog in the future.
The Newark Moonlight Cinema Is scheduled to wrap on October 4th, but Ayana and Siree are already negotiating to extend their pop-up run into September.
You can find the Newark Moonlight Cinema on
You can Find Ayana Stafford-Morris and Siree Morris on
Release ID: 88970111