NEARLY 2,000 people had that “getaway feeling”, heading out to the AA Getaway Drive-In Cinema, parked up at Elvington Airfield, near York, last weekend.
In “Vol. 1” of the AA’s new cinematic entertainment venture, afternoon and evening screenings took place from Friday to Sunday, Saturday reserved for AA members, the other two days open to the public, with a maximum of five people per car.
The other York drive-in experience available/not available/go to Aberdeen right now is for Covid-19 Testing at Poppleton Park and Ride, and driving past the ever-evocative Air Museum aircraft onto the airfield expanse for Saturday night’s show, there seemed to be even more staff on hand to guide you through a winding course of tyres, in familiar AA livery of gaudy yellow. Even an official photographer was there to snap every car and smiling incumbent.
All on duty were wearing face masks; enthusiastic, helpful, loving that feeling of being out in the open air, like Tukker the dog with the fan and record deck in the new AA advert that would inevitably play its part in the promotional side of this drive-in Saturday experience.
Name checked, you were handed sanitised remote speakers for your listening pleasure and informed how you could order food and drink – “locally sourced “ – from that device to be brought contact-free to your car.
A number was placed on each driver’s wing mirror to facilitate those deliveries, once you had been guided into your car’s socially distanced spot by hand signals more associated with guiding an aeroplane across the Heathrow tarmac. Apt for an airfield, of course!
The first York drive-in of the summer, Daisy Duke’s on Knavesmire from July 31 to August 2, had favoured a combination of musical big hitters, Grease, Rocketman, Mamma Mia! and A Star Is Born, family hits, Toy Story and Shrek 2, and something darker for night-time, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction and Joker.
AA Getaway’s triptych of escapist films felt the need for speed, thrills and action, suitable both for the location and the AA’s association with travel and driving. Hence the choice of James Gunn’s 2014 space chase, Guardians Of The Galaxy (12A), Edgar Wright’s 2017 getaway-car heist thriller, Baby Driver (15), and James Mangold’s 2019 Ford v Ferrari race-track clash, Le Mans ’66 (12), Saturday’s evening pick for AA members.
Many moons ago, but never to be forgotten, a hapless drive-in showcase in a Clifton Moor car park had combined a blow-up screen that blew over in the howling wind, incongruous ice creams on an absurdly cold and wet early summer’s night, and a much-delayed screening of Grease – Summer Lovin’ didn’t happen so fast, alas – after the forlorn screen had to be deflated and slowly, very slowly, re-inflated.
“Never again” was the vow in the wake of that tragic-comic affirmation that drive-ins were meant for open-topped American cars on balmy American nights with the junkiest of American junk food, not for an anonymous Yorkshire tarmac strip off a bypass.
Until…Saturday night at the movies at Elvington Airfield and AA Getaway’s slick, ultra-efficient, state-of-the-drive-in cinema, where the sound systems were as clear as the staff instructions, the three giant LED screens were pin-sharp and everything ran to time.
Le Mans ’66 was a cracking selection: Ford versus Ferrari, American ruthlessness versus more stylish Italian ruthlessness on and off the track for the 1966 24-hour Le Mans race in a buddy vehicle for Matt Damon and Christian Bale.
Ultimately, under Mangold’s heart-pumping direction, it turned into a hymn to the uncompromising, temperamental but brilliant engineer and driver Ken Miles, the Motorsports Hall Of Fame of America inductee from Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, whose deeds overseas deserve to be known by more than petrol heads.
Aided by Bale’s bravura performance, there was so much mileage in Miles’s story, hopefully, if belatedly, the Brummie race ace will have his place among the pantheon of British sporting greats.
Will Harrison, AA’s head of brand marketing, said after the weekend: “We launched AA Getaway to offer audiences some true escapism and we’re absolutely delighted with the response. For many, it was their very first drive-in experience and we hope they were able to sit back, relax and smile – all from the comfort of their car.”
Roll on Vol 2: The Drive-In for these days when the car, a kind of home from home, looks a safe option for Covid-secure, socially distanced entertainment.