Backstage with Elias Cole

This week, YTL Arena goes backstage with Elias Cole, Operations Manager at Adventure Cinema. The touring outdoor cinema company hosted a very successful line-up of events on the former Filton Airfield last month, offering guests a unique drive-in cinema experience enjoyed from the comfort and safety of their cars. Following this success, they will be back this month for #HalloweenWeek, showing a spooktacular array of movies. Find tickets here.

Since the Coronavirus pandemic struck, the live events and the entertainment sector has been hit hard, with many businesses having to quickly think of ways to adapt in order to carry on providing entertainment, but in a way that adheres to social distancing measures.

One sector that has truly boomed in recent months is the drive-in cinema, proving to be a practical response to a unique problem. In the 1950s, the drive-in cinema was a huge cultural marker. Film-lovers would flock to open-air theatres, enjoying movies from their vehicles while roller-skating waitresses would offer snacks and drinks. This scene is an iconic image of 1950s Americana… and it’s looking like it’s becoming the new normal of 2020… though perhaps with a little technical revamp! Find out how Adventure Cinema are leveraging the use of technology to enhance viewer experience – and more – in our “Backstage With” Q&A with Elias Cole.

With lockdown restrictions now the new normal, how are drive-in events enabling people to venture out again and enjoy entertainment safely?

Drive-in events have sprung up all across the country as a direct answer to COVID restrictions as, if managed well, they are naturally COVID safe. At all of our events we ensure people stay within the safe confines of the vehicle throughout the event, entry is contact free, and viewers remain only surrounded by the people in their bubble. We are all wanting life to go back to how it was before, but for now this is the best we can do to still have some fun!

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Why do you think drive-in cinemas are proving to be so popular again?

Text BoxDrive-in cinemas are certainly popular at the moment due to COVID restrictions; however, I think there has always been a lot of interest in them. We have all seen American films showing the golden age of drive-ins, but it never really made it to the UK. Now everyone can experience the fun of watching films in the comfort of your car with your feet up on the dashboard.

What precautions are Adventure Cinema taking to ensure the safety of both guests and staff during the events?

We take the safety of everyone at our events very seriously. Entry is contact free, staff are wearing face coverings, and all the equipment is sanitised between every use. Cars are parked to allow for social distancing, and viewers only leave their car to use the toilet.

Unlike the 1950s Americana, today’s drive-ins are a bit more tech-savvy. How does the event harness technology to provide a better customer experience? (sound system/ LED screens, etc)

Technology has come a long way in the last 70 years, and we are making the most of it! You no longer have to wait until it gets dark to show a movie, we are touring with a huge 10x5 meter LED screen that can be clearly seen even on the brightest of days. Rather than using a large sound system and annoying all the neighbours, the sound is transmitted to the cars via wireless portable speakers. It is these jumps in technology that help bring the classic drive-in to today's audience in the way people now come to expect!

Adventure Cinema drive-in at the former Filton Airfield, image by Taylor Bragg

Do you think there will be more creative thinking from event organisers to adapt live events to a drive-in format in the wake of COVID-19? i.e. theatre, comedy, etc?

Certainly, there are many event organisers looking at what is possible with the drive-in format. As time goes on, we continue to have no idea what is coming next with COVID-19, so it is hard to guess what will happen next year. There will no doubt continue to be a wide variation of drive-in events until it is possible to return to normal events again, although I feel like the drive-in movie will continue to be the most popular due to its history and place in popular culture.

What’s the reaction been to the drive-in cinema events?

The reaction has been fantastic, we have toured the whole country all summer and people love it! It is something different and fun, and for most people a new experience. We have already been to Bristol for a mostly sold-out week in September and are looking forward to returning for a week of Halloween films in October.

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Do you think these sorts of events will be a long-term plan in Bristol?

I expect that events will mostly return to normal when they are able to, but I am sure there will continue to be drive-in cinema events now that people know how fun they can be. They have been a part of popular culture since the 50s and will no-doubt continue to be for many years to come!

What’s your favourite thing about Bristol?

Bristol is a fantastic city that until recently I called home for 6 years. Without a doubt the best thing about it is the creative and arts scene that spreads across the whole city. The music scene is fantastic. Long may it continue!

First/Last/Future concert/gig?

First - Glastonbury Festival when I was barely a year old
Last - Snazzback at Highrise in Bristol
Future - I have tickets to see Snarky Puppy in Florence, I have no idea when it will be rescheduled for and whether I will be able to travel to Italy at the time but I very much look forward to it if it can happen!

Lastly, what’s your all-time favourite song so we can add it to our YTL Arena Spotify playlist?

All-time favourite song is a very difficult question! Let’s go with Pink Floyd – Money

To listen to our Backstage Playlist on Spotify, click here. For exciting updates at YTL Arena Bristol, follow @ytlarenabristol on social media or sign up to our newsletter here.