Friday, July 19, 2024

After nearly quarter of a century, Moonlight Movies on the Beach might not happen again

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It is nothing short of a Long Beach tradition, one steeped in our city’s love for both shoreline events and the arts: Moonlight Movies on the Beach, the city’s entirely-free, annual, summer-long screening of films sand-side. After approaching nearly 25 years of serving the community, the event might not be a reality in 2024.

Hold up—how is it possible Moonlight Movies on the Beach won’t happen?

Well, usually the same reason as always: money.

“We actually had to scale back some of our offerings last year because we came up short on sponsorships,” longtime organizer and owner of GK Media Kris Gragson said. “This year is looking even worse.”

Gragson said each screening costs around $5,000, with cost including the rights to screen the film, city permits required for large events, providing amenities, and installing infrastructure like sound and the screen itself. Make no mistake: It’s an endeavor—and one Gragson or Beach Ventures do not make money from.

It is a harsh reality that many who participate in these events often don’t realize: Such events, bluntly put, cost actual money—and this isn’t to say there hasn’t been great partners in the history of the event.

“We have had so many great partners—the Port of Long Beach, councilmembers in Long Beach, a ton others,” Gragson said. “But we can’t take the hit again this year, especially after last year and the difficulties we faced. If anyone knows of organizations or companies or if the city wants to step up and help provide the community with this free event, connect us.”

Moonlight Movies on the Beach is a cultural cornerstone in Long Beach’s art scene—one which has always aimed to include everyone

Moonlight has always had locals and outsiders alike invited to park a chair on the sand, kick back, and watch a flick—and it perfectly aligned with the dream of Moonlight on the Beach’s creator, Fred Khammar: to always have something free for families in our community to enjoy.

“A family man himself, Khammar understood how incredibly expensive it can be to take an entire family to the movies and almost 25 years later, that still rings true,” Jesel Ortloff said. “It’s even more important now for families to have something inexpensive or free to attend with how insanely expensive everything is. It would break our hearts to not be able to provide this wonderful event for our beloved Long Beach families.”

Moonlight Movies on the Beach is a cultural and social essential that has come to define what Long Beach does best. It is an event that provides for its community by its community—and hell, it is even a massive booster for Long Beach for those that don’t know or visit Long Beach: The media reach of Moonlight Movies on the Beach is rather wild, reaching publications and social media posts that bring folks to our space not just to see a movie but see Long Beach as a destination. That is cultural value on a level no simple marketing campaign can achieve.

All with the simple idea of watching a movie projected onto a giant screen with the Pacific serving as its backdrop—and that, of course, has itself altered over the years.

Yes, the sandy beaches of Long Beach are certainly idyllic and can easily be viewed as the ideal way to celebrate an event that literally has “movies on the beach” in its event name but the ultimately reality is: Not everyone lives by or has to access to, well, the beach.

Bus routes to the entirety of our shoreline have been cut due to budget issues post-pandemic. For those with cars, the exorbitant skyrocket in gas prices forces them to choose the use of their car more sparingly. For those in wheelchairs, Granada Beach—one of the event’s longstanding venues—becomes nearly impossible to access without someone literally lifting you across the sand.

So Gragson and crew opted to make a big change in 2022: Make it more accessible by moving it to locations which were more easier to access via public transit, wheelchair, walking, and more.

“We’ve always been invested in this community—I think the history of what we’ve done shows that,” Gragson said. “I just hope we can last another 20-something years.”

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

11 COMMENTS

  1. How much does the city make on these weekly festivals that we have to endure across the area? Throw us a bone and show the movies. $5k is nothing.

  2. Do you know if they have considered charging a “donation encouraged” fee per person to help supplement the cost? If 300 people each paid just $5 it would be $1500 – I know that’s not the same as 5K per movie – but it would help off-set so they would need fewer sponsors?

  3. I have lots of questions. Do you own the equipment or rent? How expensive are the permits? Geez. It would be a shame for Long Beach to lose this lovely family event. There are major employers in Long Beach. How do you outreach to them? I understand you are trolling for sponsors but these type of scare tactics don’t sit welll with me.

  4. I was born and raised here. Unfortunately, it’s not safe watching a movie along any of our local beaches after dark with the crime, mental illness and people living in vehicles at the beach. Two murders on 2nd street and the thrashing of property at the Lagoon a few nights ago…all from people coming into the community to do damage…not safe. Much of the decline is due to Newsome and Gascon decisions. Newsine just fleeced people again with Prop 1 that just just passed. It will place the next generation in debt and government will pocket more money, raise our taxes even more. Maybe let’s stick to concerts in parks before dark, somewhat safer.

    • April I am with you, it is “Corruption” and everything is for the Homeless, However I moved a dissable friend to Long Beach from OC, and they took all the benefits away

  5. How selfless, caring, and wonderful of the people organizing this amazing event for our community! It is such a safe event that you can take your family and friends. I wish I had connections to help out with sponsorship.

  6. No one did it better, and with more efficiency than Freddie.
    Thanks to Jessie, Big G and several others who took on the task of actually using the shoreline for the betterment of the community. There was never full support or finance to come from Downtown, due to all the rules and regulations that come with doing business on the California coastline. Fortunately, back when, that didn’t stop some of the “ol’ gang”.

    Thx “Beach Mafia”. 😉

  7. I love Movies at the Beach. I travel in from Pasadena and patronize local businesses and have even done meet-ups with friends that do the same. I have NEVER had a problem with the mentally ill, homeless or people living in their cars. This is a great, family-friendly Event. I hope it returns!

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