In a long while, the world can kiss goodbye to a social gatherings the old way. A likely fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will affect a whole range of social outings and leisure including attending the cinema. With a slew of highly anticipated movies due for release in 2020 currently on hold, there is a growing concern among cinemagoers about how COVID-19-fuelled dynamics will affect the cinema culture––at least, in the short run.
Good news: SwiftThink, an innovative idea development and management company, has reinvented cinema-going with a novelty drive-thru, open-air, truck-mounted High Definition LED screen cinema experience.
The concept, pilot-tested 17 times in scheduled morning and evening sessions on consecutive days, has brought a whole new, wholesome experience to the cinema culture.
The drive-thru cinema, held at Car Park B, Redemption Camp, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, started on Friday, March 23rd and lasted a few days. Attendance was strictly by drive-in and, at its peak, an attendance of 71 cars was recorded.
While some days featured one session, others had two sessions. On average, the morning session lasted two hours, while the evening viewing session stretched to a little more than four hours.
The beauty of it: The truck’s HD screen throws out crisp pictures over a distance of 200 metres such that the movie is visible to those who are parked far away. And the sound travels farther than that. The experience was raised a notch with other absorbing attractions such as karaoke nights and computer game contests on the big screen.
The line-up encompassed different genres, including religious films, local films and foreign flicks, all censored to avoid obscenities.
What inspired the concept? The lockdown, says Mr Ayoola Jolayemi, CEO of SwiftThink Limited: “People stayed in their houses from morning till night because of the lockdown. So we thought of what to do to help people ease boredom while ensuring people observed strict adherence to social distancing guidelines.”
On whether it could compromise social distancing protocol, Jolayemi informs: “We made it known to people from the start that the only way to gain entry into the park is to arrive in a car––no car, no entry. So, people came in their cars.”
Indeed, that was the cinema’s mode d’emploi. Everyone watching from inside his or her vehicle. The organisers not only used the services of security personnel to ensure compliance, but an announcement also reminded the sit-in-car viewers about the need to stay put in their vehicle blared during the interlude.
Can such a quaint concept compare with the “total experience” of an indoor cinema?
The SwiftThink boss’s response is positive: “One thing that makes the indoor cinema experience worthwhile is the sound. Asides from the LED screen that gives crispy images, we ensured that we had a very good sound system. The sound could be heard almost two kilometres away during quiet nights.”
A few attendees shared their opinions about the experience with TIMEOUT. Victor can hardly contain his glee. “I want the program to continue as it helps to relax the mind and helps to ease boredom and twice in a week won’t be bad,” he gushes.
He is particularly delighted with the strict enforcement and compliance with the social distancing protocol by the organisers and attendees respectively. The coordinators, he notes, were well organized and polite.
Tofunmi gives a more colourful assessment: “It was an awesome initiative with an awesome experience. Especially during this lockdown era, it helped with a little sense of freedom and fun. It was well coordinated. It gives a sense of purpose day by day and the movies also impacted on me positively.”
Kelechi’s review underscore the therapeutical gains: “I love the fact that we can come together and watch movies and share ideas on one or two things, I will love it to continue. The way we are all cooped indoor, the minds of many people feed on negative thoughts. So people would love to come for the drive-thru cinema to reset their minds and uplift the spirit of the depressed. This drive-through cinema will save lives, one way or the other.”
SwiftThink, no doubt has come up with a good concept that meets the need of this perilous time. The big question is, will the drive-through cinema end up as an experiment that fizzles out with time? Paraphrased: Is it an idea that would continue after the COVID-19 lockdown?
Jolayemi offers an unambiguous perspective: “The drive-thru that we did during the lockdown is the first-ever experience and it turned out to be a great one. The project was sponsored by SwiftThink Limited with support from some individuals. It is something that we would explore after the lockdown, for profit or partnership purposes. We will be reaching out to companies, religious organizations and development agencies to engage the services of the truck for their events and advocacy activities across cities. For instance, one of the major telecommunication companies used the trucks for something similar four years ago when they did Campus Activations across some selected cities in Nigeria, so we are open to partnerships with established brands and SMEs that want to take advantage of this idea in taking their messages to target areas using the tool of outdoor cinematic entertainment.
SwiftThink, established in 2009, has played leading roles in the advertising, live events, experiential and project development/management space, being of service to a slew of government and private agencies.
The agency has worked on the development of game-changing ideas, project management, SME growth and brand development, especially indigenous African ideas and companies.