By Craig Smith
“Goonies,” the featured film at Napa Movie Nights at the Napa Valley Expo, was still a half an hour from starting, and the parking lot was filling up. People were enjoying themselves. “We wanted to do something with the kids, and this felt like a good thing to do,” said Lisa Ficele, who with Mike Riendeau brought her three kids: Ginna, Frankie and Phillip. “It appeals to all ages, from college to junior high and adults, and that’s us.” Ginna, who had already claimed a viewing spot on the tailgate of the SUV and was wrapped in a blanket, saw an added advantage to the night, “It takes my mind off school.”
Napa Movie Nights is brought to the community by TEAM Morales Events. Husband and wife Tony and Julie Morales know a lot about events, having done hundreds as diverse as Blues, Brews & BBQ to the concession stands and concerts bars at Safeway Open. They’ve created a drive-in movie experience that will rival your memories of the past. Movies are projected on a 40’ wide x 20’ tall screen that is set 15’ off the ground, so the view is good from anywhere. The best part though, is the sound. “We send it out via an FM transmitter, so you can hear it on your car radio or any radio you bring.” So instead of the cheap, tinny, mono sound box you used to hang from an open car window, you get the sound your system can provide. “I tried it during Jurassic Park, when the dinosaur comes crashing into view” said Tony, “and I could practically feel my car move.” Don’t worry about running down your battery. It happened once, but TEAM Morales Events has Napa Valley Towing standing by for any needed jump starts.
Unlike the old days at the drive-in, guests are permitted to get out of their cars. “Social distancing and masks are a must when you’re outside your pod,” said Julie, “but your family can spread a blanket or chairs and enjoy being outside.” And unlike the theater, if you want to talk during the movie? Talk during the movie. Your family may shush you, but no one else will. Feel like a little kissing? Hey, it’s the drive-in.
TEAM Morales Events wants this to be a memorable family experience. Thursday nights are 80s and 90s throwbacks, Friday nights are usually reserved for live action family-friendly movies, like Jurassic Park and Goonies. Future flicks could include Star Wars or Indiana Jones. Saturdays are reserved for animated features, like Despicable Me or the Addams Family. And Sundays are for classics. That could be The Birds, Singing in the Rain, or even Jaws. “Showing quality films gives people the chance to make this a go-to activity,” said Tony.
Show time is 7:00 p.m., and gates open at 5:45 p.m. Thursdays are geared to locals, and the fee is only $20 per car. Friday through Saturday, it’s $30 per car (still a lot cheaper than taking the family to a theater). You can make reservations and find out what movies are scheduled by visiting TeamMoralesEvents.com or the ‘Napa Movie Nights’ Facebook and Instagram pages. If you want to order food, you can do so online at the same time. If you want to rent the whole ‘theater’ to host a social distancing safe holiday or private event for your company or group, the Morales’ will accommodate that as well. This is an experience you can help design. Nonprofit groups who want to “work” the event, directing guests to their parking spaces or anything else needed, are compensated for their time and efforts.
TEAM Morales Events appreciates the support of all their sponsors, with a shout out to Red Carpet sponsors: Cooke Orthodontics, MEL Electric and Peak Productions. They also want to thank Joe Anderson and the Napa Valley Expo. At the top of their thank you list are all the folks who have come out and enjoyed a movie, like Jeff and Genevie Fletcher, who attended with their sons Quentin and Waylon, and friend Jackson Hiserman. They attended a few weeks ago as first timers, as Genevie said, “It’s just good family fun.” Asked why they chose that night, Jeff was quick to answer, “Are you kidding? It’s the Goonies – a classic!”