Thursday, May 30, 2024

Expanding presence, Moonlight Movies on the Beach does the right thing: Bringing free movies to everyone

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Long Beach has long loved its shoreline events, particularly Moonlight Movies on the Beach, the city’s entirely-free, annual, summer-long screening of films where locals and outsiders alike are invited to park a chair on the sand, kick back, and watch a movie projected onto a giant screen with the Pacific serving as its backdrop.

Long Beach has also long dismissed that the entirety of our city is divvied up into a wide-stretching conglomeration of neighborhoods, cultures, and peoples—and the coast isn’t exactly accessible to everyone.

Moonlight Movies on the Beach celebrates two decades

Going on its 20th year of operation, the folks behind Moonlight Movies have noticed that inaccessibility—in more ways than one—and have partnered with Long Beach Transit to help achieve a better sense of equity. 


Venture out. Watch a movie with the constant hum of PCH traffic in the background and, perhaps even more, meet some people from the very city you call home that you would have otherwise not likely met. Own all of Long Beach; not just part of it. Be a part of all of Long Beach; not just a part of it.


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.

And more importantly, movies shown (literally) on the beach directly and conveniently serve a small portion of Long Beach: those with easy access and more open schedules to, well, what is basically their backyard.

Why is Moonlight Movies on the Beach moving part of its operations, well, off the beach?

Beachside as backyard might be a reality for some—but for the rest of Long Beach? Not so much.

“Honestly, we just realized that not everyone can make it to the literal beach,” said longtime organizer and owner of GK Media Kris Gragson. “We’ve always viewed this as an event for the entire city, not just a neighborhood—and that is why we’ve decided to expand our presence.”

This year, Granada Beach will once again serve as a location for the screenings, but Gragson and his crew have also included two other non-shoreline areas: the two campuses of Long Beach City College, the one on Carson in East Long Beach and the other in the heart of Central Long Beach at Pacific Coast Highway.

One would think that giving a chance for everyone in the city would spark a sense of connectedness and pride while also inviting those from the enclaves of the shore to perhaps venture outside the bubble.

But the response has been anything but.

On its first sharing of an event—screening Disney’s “Moana” at the Pacific Coast Campus of Long Beach City College this Thursday at 8PM—commenters have already chimed in that “no one wants to go to a college campus” and that the event signaled that “a pre-COVID experience might return in its original form. But as mommy and daddy teach us: if it seems too good to be true, it is.”

The immediate reaction seems, in all frankness, largely disconnected from the ideal that we should have: First and foremost, an overall drive to have an overall connected city.

Being immediately near a beach, be it able to walk to (as in, on the sand and outside of a wheelchair) or easily drive to (as in not depending on the hours of transit or your family’s needs or the cost of gas), is just one example of having an upper hand in accessing these events—but the fact that there are tens of thousands of citizens who can’t access the beach conveniently despite living nearby is something that cannot be dismissed.

And that is but one reason as to why the move by Moonlight Movies to venture into other Long Beach neighborhoods should be applauded if not outright celebrated. Yeah, to the commenter who said, “I was going to go until it wasn’t at the beach,” there is a real sentiment there: You want a film on an idyllic shoreline; you want the literal part of the city you live in, the “beach” of Long Beach. 

But you also live in a city where it wouldn’t be what it is were it not for the people in surrounding neighborhoods that are continually dismissed because of that very sense of environmental romanticism; where neighborhoods lack events, visitors, and a sense of civic pride. And this is said because they certainly show up for you; they venture into your neighborhood to support your events—and in all bluntness, that support needs to be not just redirected but mutually shared.

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“Honestly, we just realized that not everyone can make it to the literal beach. We’ve always viewed this as an event for the entire city, not just a neighborhood—and that is why we’ve decided to expand our presence.”


“Long Beach isn’t just one neighborhood,” Gragson said. “We’re a pretty large city where all of its citizens deserve to feel like they are recognized. This is a small step from my organization’s events to do just that.”

One look at Long Beach City College’s campuses and it becomes apparent that these locations are far more accessible, not just in terms of public transit—it bears repeating: current gas prices—but also in terms of ADA compliance. Our disabled neighbors now have a much more comfortable, accessible event and that is something worth sharing with them.

Even more, these events are entirely free. Repeat: Entirely. Free. And it’s not just the movie: There is live entertainment from Long Beach bands before the big show. Often free food, like free ice cream cones at this Thursday’s screening of “Moana.” And the ability for events like these to maintain a sponsorship presence that allocates money for them depends on us attending them. 

Plus, there is the simple idea that is loving one’s city wholly, not just part of it. The perpetual force to drive all of our city’s citizens to a particularly desirable place can work for singular, major events; but if the event is genuinely communal, that force to the the most affluent of our areas is not only unfair but needs correction. 

And if anyone from outside West, Central, and North Long Beach has stepped outside their bubble, they would know that the majority of the city has long been dismissed in the name of “but this place in Long Beach is better.”

Venture out. Watch a movie with the constant hum of PCH traffic in the background while you dance during the pre-show and, perhaps even more, meet some people from the very city you call home that you would have otherwise not likely met. Own all of Long Beach; not just part of it. Be a part of all of Long Beach; not just a part of it.

Celebrate something that you experienced on the comfort of the sand is now available to a neighbor within the comfort of a place they can actually get to. 

Moonlight Movies on the Beach will be hosted at three locations this year:

  • Granada Beach at 4120 Ocean Blvd.
  • Long Beach City College – Liberal Arts Campus (LBCC LAC) at 4901 E. Carson St. 
  • Long Beach City College – Pacific Coast Campus (LBCC PCC) at 1305 Pacific Coast Hwy.

The following movies will be shown across this summer:

  • May 26 – Moana – LBCC PCC
  • June 21 – Coco – Granada Beach 
  • June 28 – Black Widow – Granada Beach
  • June 30 – Cruella – LBCC LAC
  • July 7 – Wall E – LBCC PCC
  • July 12 – Goonies – Granada Beach
  • July 14 – Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban – LBCC LAC
  • July 19 – Dirty Dancing – Granada Beach
  • July 21 – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – LBCC LAC
  • July 26 – Encanto – Granada Beach
  • August 2 – Weird Science – Granada Beach
  • August 4 – Spiderman No Way Home – LBCC PCC
  • August 9 – Luca – Granada Beach
  • August 11 – Star Wars Rogue One – LBCC LAC
  • August 16 – The Princes Bride – Granada Beach
  • August 18 – The Wizard of Oz – LBCC LAC
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.

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