Monday, June 17, 2024

Moonlight Movies on the Beach canceled for first time in 25 years; hopes to return next year

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You read that right: After a quarter of a century fostering the Long Beach community, Moonlight Movies on the Beach is canceled for the first time in its history. The annual tradition of screening free movies throughout the summer—both on the sand and in more accessible parts of the city—has been adored by residents and visitors alike.

But it all came down to, of course, money.

So why is Moonlight Movies on the Beach canceled? And will it return next year?

Well, the reason for the cancellation is usually the same reason as always: money. And the hopes to return? Organizer Kris Gragson expressed earlier this year the frustration with decreased grant funding across the board over the past handful of years.

“We are hopeful that we will be back next year,” Gragson said, also noting that efforts have already begun to ensure that next year will hopefully bring in more money to guarantee screenings—which are wildly costly.

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 always supposed to be free—and not funded directly by the community but screened for the community

“I know a lot of people said to charge admission or set up a crowdfunding effort,” Gragson said. “But we believe this should be a free community event.”

And that means the community not directly funding it but partners—like the aforementioned supporters, largely organizations with the capital to fund such events—and organizations leading the way.

Moonlight Movies on the Beach is an essential part of Long Beach’s cultural identity

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 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 told me the year before last. “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.”

To have it cancelled—despite spaces like The Queen Mary also hosting movie screenings this upcoming summer—is a major blow to Long Beach’s sense of cultural identity: It is one of the few non-holiday-oriented traditions that has stood the test of time—and it is honestly worth protecting and investing in.

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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. This is a perfect opportunity for the city and the mayor to reach out to corporate sponsors wanting to do business in the city. The Fairmont is coming to town and other big profit names exist here. It’s time to pressure them to give back to the community by sponsoring events like this as well as others.

  2. It’s pretty shocking that the major Motion Picture studios in SoCal won’t sponsor such an event that the whole community likes. The cost for them would be non-existent as they could write it off as advertising. They are clamoring for people to return to the movie theaters. What a better way for them to get the word out? Before the movie would start they could run movie trailers of upcoming attractions. Very shameful and sad.

    • That’s exactly what I wrote on FB. Each showing could be a different Studio showing a new release! Think of the advertising possibilities!

  3. Not sure why the city cannot direct Tideland Funds to the Community Screening. This is much more successful than the $5 million dollar concession stand they built that is still not open after 4 years. Very sad!!!

  4. If funding is an issue, maybe reach out to larger organizations like the Melinda Gates Foundation, Vons Foundation, etc. Then maybe next year the movies on the beach can begin again. Is this cancellation only about funding?

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