The Luna Cinema founder on its 10-year anniversary, keeping things fresh and the future

Ahead of its 10-year anniversary this summer, the founder of the UK’s largest open-air cinema pinpointed variety as key to its success.

With 175 screenings nationwide, The Luna Cinema has also launched Luna Kids and Luna Beach this year, screening childrens’ movies and live events for the first time.

Events are also held in no less than seven south west London hotspots, including Brockwell Lido, Battersea Park, Fulham Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Tooting Common, Wimbledon Park and Wandsworth Park.

On its most successful films, The Luna Cinema founder and Dulwich native George Wood said: “The Shape of Water is doing brilliantly in Brockwell Lido, because that’s the perfect combination of film and venue. It’s the holy grail when you can link the two, it just adds a whole different dimension.”

From floating in a dinghy in Brockwell Lido with Jaws, to watching Top Gun in an RAF museum, Luna has always tried to be different.

Taking in well-loved classics such as Top Gun, Grease, Labyrinth as well as the latest Oscar-contenders Dunkirk, The Shape Of Water, they run events everywhere from castles to commons, amphitheatres to abbeys.

The classics are easy to choose every year, with the nostalgia for Back To The Future and Casablanca showing no signs of abating. However, with an ever-expanding roster, they must keep finding new films.

One of their biggest successes this year is The Greatest Showman which, while not adored by critics, has proven immensely popular with an open-air cinema audience. They also offers more off-beat fare, with ‘Three Billboards and Blade Runner 2049 on this summer’s list.

George said: “We had a lot of success with independent films over the years. When people look at our schedule, I don’t want just to be known for Dirty Dancing, Mamma Mia, and Grease.

“Also, our team would go stale if we always relied on the same films. They love the fact we’re showing quirky stuff like Three Billboards.”

The idea for The Luna Cinema was born from a south London hospital bed.

In 2007, George – an actor and presenter – was hospitalised for six months after a serious motorcycle accident. While recovering in hospital, he began to rethink his career, and started his quest to bring open-air cinema to London.

He said: “Dulwich Park is my local, so that was the first call I ever made. It wasn’t a hard sell, they got on board quickly, which was great because it gave us time to perfect our method.”

That method was an inflatable screen, which sounded ‘a bit like a bouncy castle that was going to blow over’, which George sold to venues as quick, easy, and non-damaging. Soon, it started to pay off.

“The real breakthrough was Hampton Court Palace, which was a domino effect for all the other heritage sites. Before I knew it, they were approaching me,” he added.

Nowadays, George knows he’s made the right decision leaving acting behind for Luna.

“I love that the work I put in is directly in proportion to the success of the business. The frustration I always felt as an actor – with the dead ends and missed opportunities – was that powerlessness, a sense of going back to square one.

“With Luna, I felt there was something I was better at, it was my passion, and it felt right. From that moment on, I never sat in a theatre and thought I’d that like to be up on screen.”

What: The Luna Cinema
Where: Seven locations across south west London
When: Throughout the year
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