NEWARK, NJ – (Monday, July 26, 2021) – On the weekend of its one-year anniversary, Newark natives Ayana Stafford-Morris and Siree Morris reopened Newark Moonlight Cinema at a new location – 220 Orange Street, a less than five-minute trek from its prior downtown locale. On Saturday, July 24, 2021, emcee DJ Lil’ Man kicked off festivities, welcoming new and returning guests to the state’s only Black-owned drive-in movie theatre. Gates opened at 7 p.m. and films began promptly at 9 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., respectively. The first 75 Newark residents with paid admission tickets and proof of address received a free popcorn throughout the opening weekend.
‘Moonlighters were invited to adorn Zamunda-like attire in honor of Eddie Murphy’s, “Coming 2 America,” the first showing that evening. Hollywood leading man and famed Newarker, Michael B. Jordan closed the cinematic line-up with his 2021 action-thriller, “Without Remorse,” a film based on the 1993, New York Times Best-Selling novel by Tom Clancy. Opening weekend concluded on Sunday, July 25th with unforgettable 2020 performances by two dynamic women of color: “The Photograph,” starring Issa Rae and Viola Davis in August Wilson’s, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Erected at the site of the former Baxter Terrace complex, the community where the Stafford family originated and where Ayana was raised, the drive-in parked up to 300 cars per night, an average of 600 to 800 ‘Moonlighters daily. The new layout featured two upcycled, 800-sq. ft. container-backed viewing screens that will run distinct films each evening, Thursday to Sunday through October 31st.
“As we rise to the challenge of testing our business model through a major move, we have not wavered in our commitment to bring affordable and fun entertainment to our city,” declared Ayana Stafford-Morris, co-owner and founder of Newark Moonlight Cinema. “We have also seized the moment to further demonstrate our vision by adding amenities, features, and events that enrich the experience of our patrons.”
‘Moonlight,’ the new onsite eatery made of repurposed shipping containers, featured date-night decadence including gourmet crab cakes, lobster rolls, and the return of crowd favorite – Yardy Wings, an original recipe by Moonlight’s kitchen manager and emerging culinary artist, Lindell “Yardy” Calder. Classic movie theatre favorites, from freshly popped popcorn to assorted candies, also remain on the menu. Newark Moonlight Cinema continues to operate as a cashless venue. Concession transactions are processed through the FanFood app available for free download on Google Play, the AppStore, and accessible via bit.ly/moonlightfood.
“What my wife and I know, quite well, is that our community enjoys theatrics, style, good food, laughs, and the culture,” proclaims Siree Morris, co-owner of Newark Moonlight Cinema. “This opening weekend, we maintained two traditions we established last season – celebrating Blackness through family, fashion and uplifting the beauty of the African diaspora; and a Michael B. Jordan bangger, that will definitely be considered a cult-classic in the future!” Showtimes, schedule changes, special events, and emergency notifications will be updated on the website: Newarkmoonlight.com and across the social media platform @newarkmoonlight on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Beginning July 31st, the Morris’ will launch ‘Moonlight Market,” a weekly, open-air bazaar featuring local vendors, their goods, and services, operating from 2PM to 6PM every Saturday.