By Darlene Donloe, Contributing Writer
LADERA HEIGHTS — While residents in a Ladera Heights neighborhood were complying with stay-at-home orders and thus unable to go to the movies due to theater closures and citywide safer-at-home orders, they decided to bring a drive-in movie experience into their own little hamlet.
For the last three months, on Friday nights, a group of neighbors converged on the home of Shelley Goodman, 71, to watch movies projected on her white double-door garage, which, for the evening, is temporarily transformed into an outdoor movie screen, or what they call the Driveway Drive-In.
“I didn’t mind it being at my home because I wanted to see people,” said Goodman, a Chicago native who has lived in Ladera Heights for 40 years. “I set up a table and provided chips and dips and wine. When the movie is over, we all sit and visit. It’s a good way to get to know your neighbors. I know my neighbors well, but it’s always good to meet new people.”
Driveway Drive-In is the brainchild of Ran Craycraft, 39, marketing chair and board member of the Ladera Heights Civic Association, who suggested the Friday movie night for residents. He and David Oliver, board president, have been working diligently to bring the idea to fruition.
“We were all seeking a sense of normalcy ever since COVID-19 stopped all forms of entertainment,” said Craycraft, who has lived in the area for four years. “We had all been cooped up so long and hadn’t seen each other in a long time. It was a way for the community to come together and have fun.”
The Driveway Drive-In worked so well, that Craycraft suggested, and the residents and the Ladera Heights Civic Association Board of Directors agreed, to kick it up a notch.
Starting Aug. 1, the Driveway Drive-In will yield to the Ladera Drive-In, which will take place at St. James Armenian Apostolic Church on Fairfax and Slauson avenues in Ladera Heights. There, in the church’s parking lot, against its big, white wall, will be the home of the new Saturday movie night.
This time, residents will drive into the parking lot and watch films in their cars just like they would at a regular drive-in theater. The organizers of the event are not allowed to sell tickets for the event, so instead there are varying degrees of donations up to $100 per car.
The event, which starts at 8 p.m., is considered a neighborhood fundraiser. The parking lot can accommodate 30 vehicles. Everyone must remain in their cars unless using the restroom or purchasing food. Pre-packaged food is available for purchase from local vendors.
Craycraft has been hard at work over the last month securing a location and the film licensing.
“In the beginning, the hardest part was licensing films,” Craycraft said. “It can get very expensive at $500 for each film, plus the studios wanted half of our ticket sales.”
The movie business was a learning experience for Craycraft, who by day, owns a creative custom software company called Wildebeest.
“I learned that if there is a permanent drive-in movie within 25 miles, you can’t have one,” Craycraft said. “So the studios were just like, ‘do it 25 miles away.’ Then, because of the coronavirus, they decided to relax their rules. They gave us 20 different movies and will ignore the 25-mile rule.”
This summer the Ladera Heights Civic Association will have access to an array of movies including “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Spaceballs,” “Rocky,” “Back to the Future,” “Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang” and “The Butler.”
The kickoff movie will be, “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.”
“We will have 24 hours to use the movie,” Craycraft said. “You can only do a public event once.”
To prepare for the drive-in, Craycraft bought a projector, a screen, and an audio component SM transmitter in order to transfer the audio into people’s cars. The cost to the association when all is said and done comes out to about $1,000 for one movie.
Ray and Carla Lowe, who have lived in Ladera Heights for 20 years, are sponsoring the drive-in with a $500 donation.
“This is an investment in our community,” said Carla Lowe, who like her husband is a realtor at Coldwell Banker Realty. “We are always supportive of the neighborhood. We want to support the community that is supportive of us.
“We want to give people something to do,” she added. “Younger kids have probably never been to a drive-in. What a great opportunity for them. The drive-in is what a lot of us used to know. Ray and I always loved to go to the drive-in. We would go to the one on Centinela, pick up some food, put our daughter in the backseat.”
“We’ve been in Ladera a long time,” Ray Lowe said. This is a community I know and grew up in and raised my kids. These people are friends. This is about keeping us all together and giving people something to enjoy.”
Craycraft said other community members are expected to give donations to offset the cost.
“This is a fundraiser,” he said.
Shelley Goodman, who hosted the Driveway Drive-in, plans to attend the Aug. 1 showing.
“I will definitely be there when it opens,” said Goodman. “ I think it will be fun.”
“This is one community event of many we can do to keep it interesting and keep the community engaged,” Craycraft said. “Times change. People get inside these homes and they don’t leave. You don’t get to know your neighbors as much that way. I think we’ve come up with some good solutions. I think we’ve outsmarted the pandemic.”
At the Driveway Drive-in, Residents brought their own snacks, dinner, drinks and their own chairs and sat under the stars in the driveway.
Benita Horn, who has lived in Ladera Heights for 20 years, brought her 14-year-old daughter Noel to the Driveway Drive-In to give her a new experience.
“I was excited because my daughter and I usually go to the movies on Friday nights, but when the quarantine started, we were so disappointed,” Horn said. “When this came up, I was excited for my daughter to try something new.”
The first night of the Driveway Drive-In, Horn, who said she has a tendency to overpack, brought two lounge chairs, dinner, drinks and snacks.
“I actually thought it was interesting and fun,” said Noel, who will start the 10th grade at Girls Academic Leadership Academy this fall. “I really enjoyed myself. I think it would be a great idea for young people. After the movie, we could join up in a circle and talk about what’s going on right now.”