As cinema chains explore new ways to expand and eventize the moviegoing experience, a new venture will look to the past, creating a massive indoor replica of a 1960s American drive-in theater that will open in Nashville next year.
Called the August Moon Drive-In, the attraction takes a page from upscale dine-in exhibitors like Alamo Drafthouse as well as from immersive theater events like “Sleep No More.” The $10 million project aims to conjure a summer night in the sixties under a 40,000-square-foot, air-supported dome, complete with simulated starry sky, seating in modified classic cars and food service (with a full bar) focused on artisanal takes on comfort-food standards like burgers and milkshakes.
August Moon is created and designed by Michael Counts, who got his start as the director of sprawling, immersive theater events in Brooklyn before he moved on to live, interactive projects that have included New York escape room “Paradiso: Chapter 1” and “The Walking Dead Experience.” “Essentially we’re building a soundstage,” he said of what’s envisioned as an intricately detailed recreation of an outdoor space with grass, trees, hammocks, fireflies, sunsets and the scent of meadow air. “We’re building a set as if you’re going to shoot an outdoor scene in a movie, on an indoor stage.”
Nashville was chosen for the launch in part because it seemed a good fit for the attraction’s classic-Americana vibe. One of Counts’ partners on the project, Vector Management’s Ken Levitan, has deep ties to the city as the co-owner of several restaurants in the area and the co-founder of the Nashville Wine and Food Festival.
August Moon’s screen, touted as the largest non-IMAX movie screen in North America, will show a combination of first-run films and classics in a programming model that resembles the Alamo Drafthouse’s. Tricked out with interactive billboard technology, the screen will allow live performers to engage audience members during previews and post-credits sequences.
The entire experience of seeing a movie — including exploration of the space plus food and drink service — is estimated to take about three hours for a 90-minute film, with around 350 guests accommodated at each of the projected 18 screenings per week.
According to Counts, the price of entry is expected to range between $8 to $20, depending on the location of the seating, with food and drink to be charged on top of that. The theater will also offer memberships that allow for free entry along with access to concession specials, seating upgrades and other perks. In some instances, members and others will be able to vote on programming choices.
August Moon is currently scheduled to open in Nashville during the second quarter of 2018 at the intersection of James Robertson Parkway and Interstate 24, near the city’s Nissan Stadium. Should the attraction prove successful, its developers plan to roll out more iterations both domestically and internationally, with initial interest coming from parties in China and the United Arab Emirates.
Also among Counts and Levitan’s partners on August Moon are James Diener (of Freesolo Entertainment and Alignment Artist Capital), talent manager Michael Solomon and financial backer Daniel Frishwasser, with strategic financing and partnerships coordinated by Barron International Group.