Newark Moonlight Cinema drive-in returns

New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ — If you build it, they will come is apparently true for Newark Moonlight Cinema.

It’s Newark first drive in since the 1980s and it’s back for a second season. The drive in is in a new location, but it has the same positive, family vibe.

On re-opening weekend, there were two screens featuring performances by women of color, a rom com called “The Photograph” and August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

The new, seven acre location on Orange Street can park up to 300 cars a night and is on the site of the former Baxter Terrace complex, the community where Newark Moonlight co-owner Ayana Stafford-Morris grew up.

“It’s truly nostalgic when you were born and raised in a community and see that community torn down and vacant for so long. It puts a hole in your heart,” Stafford-Morris told PIX11 News. “So when we were forced to move, we found this location and we thought we’d be able to turn empty lots into something beautiful.”

Newark Moonlight Cinema was the dream of filmmaker Stafford-Morris and her real estate developer husband Siree Morris. They wanted to open the drive in during the pandemic and its success has surpassed all their hopes.

“This is confirmation that we can do anything that’s formed against us as a black couple,” Siree Morris said. “We are trying to start a 24 hour nightlife for families for the City of Newark.”

Lots of people returned for the second season, including 7-year-old actress Dakota Paradise who is in “The Photograph.”

“I never have seen myself in a drive in, it’s so big. It’ll be fun,” Paradise told PIX11 News.

A couple who went on their first date at Newark Moonlight Cinemas last year and are now engaged.

“It was a beautiful experience. I never had something like that before,” Samson Adeboye, wearing a fiancé tee shirt, told PIX11 News.

Shiana Accillien, newly betrothed, added: “it was really nice, really intimate.”

Rachel Lynch, a Sparta resident, came back for the second season.

“I love the energy, the music, the people. It feels like family,” Lynch told PIX11 News. “it’s not that close to me but I just like the community.”

And the Newark Moonlight co-owners have big plans for expansion, including a Moonlight Market on Saturday afternoons and a family kickback on Wednesday nights.

For more information on upcoming events, go to www.newarkmoonlight.com

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