Singapore: Taking a Drive Down Memory Lane with Outdoor Movies

A Volkswagen Beetle, a paper cone filled with kacang puteh (roasted nuts) and a giant movie screen in an open carpark, that's probably what my parents' movie date was like back in the 1980s. These days, our closest alternative to a drive-in cinema are outdoor screenings such as the 'Under the Banyan Tree' series at the National Museum of Singapore or 'Movies in the Park' at Fort Canning Park. Since the Jurong Drive-In Cinema closed its doors in 1985, the concept of having a drive-in cinema in Singapore had seemed like a far-fetched reality until I stumbled upon MovieMob, an outdoor drive-in movie event organised by events company Ape Communications. This event, which has been endorsed by the Singapore Tourism Board as part of the "2009 reasons to enjoy Singapore" campaign, is described as a "fortnightly movie screening series that aims to recreate a nostalgic experience" for free. Yes, you read right, it's free. It turns out that MovieMob is a tad different from the typical drive-in cinema concept. Instead of a fixed venue, each screening is held at a different location which is kept "top secret", and only revealed a couple of days before movie night. "By setting it up at different locations, it will be like an exploration trip whereby Singaporeans can get to know more about the country," said Mikhail Choo, director of Ape Communications. Since its premiere two months ago, MovieMob has sprung up at open areas at Merchant Court, Selegie Road and most recently Marina South Pier. To enjoy the show, all you have to do is to visit their website at to vote for your choice of movie and then return a couple of days before the screening to find out the venue and film that will be screened. Choo told that the idea for this guerilla drive-in movie concept was conceived during a trip to the United States. "I was in United States a couple of years back and they were screening movies on buildings. The last time we had a drive-in movie concept was probably more than 20 years ago, so we thought it was time to bring this nostalgia back to Singapore." Their efforts were clearly rewarded as more than 60 cars turned up at the open field beside Marina South Pier 30 minutes before the screening of Stardust a fortnight ago. The vehicles ranging from sport coupes to family-oriented multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) were parked neatly in rows before a giant inflatable screen. The figure eventually rose to approximately 200 and marshals had to turn away latecomers due to the lack of space. No car? No problem. There was a large canvas sheet set aside just for those without wheels or bring your own mat if you're afraid it might get a bit crowded on the communal mat. After securing a good spot, my focus turned to image and audio qualities. Being an outdoor event, it is unrealistic to expect the same top notch cinematic experience offered at multiplexes, but I wasn't let down either. The images were sharp and focused despite the slight movement of the inflatable screen due to the sea breeze. In fact, from where I was sitting some 400 metres from the screen, which was unfortunately not spared from the annoying distractions from the street lamps, Claire Danes looked as fine as she would appear on a television screen. Sound was not an issue as a frequency was specially set up for the audience to tune to and listen from their car radios. Sure, it wasn't 'Dolby Surround' quality (it might work out for those cars equipped with a solid audio system) but it was good enough as Ian McKellen's baritone voice sounded crisp and clear without interruptions. For those without cars, even though there were speakers set up near the screen, it is advisable to bring along a pocket radio or purchase one at the venue. Hotdogs, popcorn and drinks are also sold on site but fill yourself up before heading down for the show. A growling stomach isn't the best way to enjoy a movie under the stars. When the movie ended, road marshals were on hand to ensure a smooth exit. Under their directions, there was no blowing of horns, flashing of headlights or any signs of road rage. Within 20 minutes, the 200-odd vehicles had cleared the field. For the older generation, MovieMob is like a time capsule that brings you back to the good ol' 80s. The Volkswagen Beetle and kacang puteh may have been replaced by MPVs and vacuum-packed Camel nuts but nevertheless, it is a great, not to mention economical, way to spend a Saturday night, bonding with friends and family. The next MovieMob will be held on Saturday, September 19. More details on movie selection and venue available at Tips for an enjoyable evening at the MovieMob • A quick check at the website to vote for your choice of movie and confirm the location. • Arrive early as latecomers may be turned away due to space restrictions. • For those without a car, do bring along a mat, pocket radio, as well as an umbrella you know how unpredictable the weather is. • Though drinks and snacks are available on site, it is advisable to have a meal before heading down. By Favian Ng, Source:

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