There won’t be any all-white films played at this Black-owned pop-up movie theater.
Ayana Stafford-Morris, a Newark-based filmmaker and her husband, real estate developer, Siree Morris, said nah when it comes to playing 80’s classic film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at their pop-up theater opens this Friday (Jul.24) in Newark. Why, you may ask? Well, the couple doesn’t consider that a cult classic to the customers that will be showing up. Instead, they will be showing films like Just Mercy, Hardball, Transformers, Creed II, Girl’s Trip, and the 2007 remake of Hairspray because those films “reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of the region’s audiences.”
Those films also have a connection with the city of Newark being that stars Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy Creed II) and Queen Latifah (Girl’s Trip & Hairspray) are both natives to the New Jersey city.
Speaking with the Gothamist, Stafford-Morris explained the couple’s decision to stay away from “all-white” cinema stating:
“We want to be able to change the narrative. When we say cult classic, it shouldn’t just be assumed that it’s a white film.”
Stafford-Morris, 34, revealed that when she met with a movie licensing company, they suggested that she should play Jaws, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Those films are considered “drive-in staples” in some movie circles, primarily white ones.
Stafford-Morris told the publication, “Some of us like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But that’s not a cult classic for us.”
No lies detected there.
As to how they came to their decision, Stafford-Morris states that it all came to fruition following a discussion at the dinner table with her husband.
“When we’re sitting around the dinner table, and we’re having conversations about, ‘Remember what happened in that movie?’ That’s not usually the one that we’re discussing.”
Newark Moonlight Cinema arrives right on time as people try to find ways to keep themselves entertained while remaining safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Stafford-Morris approached her husband with the idea to open the drive-in theater following her first experience with one at the Lighthouse International Film Festival on Long Beach Island, where her film Why Is We Americans? about the late poet Newark poet Amiri Baraka was premiered.
The pop-up theater will live at Bear Stadium, which is a 7.4-acre property that can hold up to 350 cars on the minor league baseball team’s field. The couple was given permission to use the site through the fall by the property owners, the Lotus Equity Group. The pop-up theater features a 55-foot-tall inflatable screen, on-site popcorn machine, concession stand for candy plus fountain sodas, and a grill-for-hire company to prepare hot dogs and hamburgers.
So if your longing for a movie night in New Jersey, the Newark Moonlight Cinema is the place to be. All tickets and food concessions must be bought through the website or using the FanFood app for health and safety precautions.
Photo: Diego Ibarra Sanchez / Getty