Major 2020 festivals like Cannes and South By Southwest have canceled or postponed their events. But feisty Long Beach Island’s annual Lighthouse International Film Festival will go forth as scheduled June 16-20 at the Jersey Shore, with live screenings.
The driving force behind their bold move: pop-up drive-in theaters. Nimble organizers have arranged three outdoor venues for screening the festival line-up, becoming one of the first festivals since the pandemic to return to something approaching normal.
“While the drive-in option is being discussed in several festivals around the world, LIFF is willing to lead the way and make it happen,” said festival executive director Amir Bogen, in a statement.
The lineup of films has yet to be announced, but managing director Christine Rooney said the Ocean County venues have been arranged. The drive-ins will be set up at the Long Beach Island Foundation for the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies, Taylor Park in Beach Haven, and Manahawkin Plaza in Manahawkin. Rooney said each venue holds between 60 and 115 cars.
“We are COVID safe — social distancing, masks if you leave vehicle, cars 6 feet apart, contactless ticketing,” she said. Tickets are available through the LIFF website, lighthousefilmfestival.org.
Rooney said LIFF will be using “highly skilled vendors and service providers to set up and run the drive-in experience every evening.” In fact, she noted, the crews and companies have previously set up outdoor screenings for the Tribeca Film Festival.
Screens will be large — either 30 or 40 feet wide — and digital projectors will be used. There will be two screenings at each venue each night, with doors opening at about 8 p.m. at each location. There are no concessions, but restroom facilities will be available on site.
Other film festivals have opted to stream their content online, and LIFF will be doing some of that, as well, including virtual Q&As with filmmakers. The website will have details.
“Obviously, this year’s festival will be very different from previous years," with an emphasis on safety, Rooney said, so they’re foregoing “our famous Hollywood-style parties,” panel talks, and other social events. “That being said … we still plan to celebrate film.”