LOS ANGELES—While movie theaters in Los Angeles remain closed, Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation reimagined the movie-going experience for The Croods: A New Age, a family-friendly film starring Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, and Kelly Marie Train that premiered Nov. 25. The studios worked with 15/40 to create an immersive drive-thru experience, followed by a drive-in screening, from Nov. 19-24 at Universal CityWalk Hollywood.
"With The Croods: A New Age being an animated family film, we, along with Universal, felt that the experience needed to be as immersive as possible," explained Gillian Deeds, art director at 15/40. "We sought to truly capture the spirit of the film and bring the animation into a tangible existence by featuring the larger-than-life characters, over-the-top colors, and dramatic set designs. The goal was to have guests feel as though they were transported out of their own world and into the wildly adventurous and exciting world of The Croods."
Guests, who registered in advance via Eventbrite, first drove through a 15-minute experience that gave them a sneak peek at the world of The Croods, complete with whimsical decor, elaborate sets, lifesize characters, and in-car photo ops. There was also a contact-free snack station where attendees grabbed treats before the screening, which was shown on a 40-foot-wide LED screen that was visible in daylight for an earlier screening, and at night for a second show. An added bonus? Universal Pictures donated $10 for each ticket reserved to Feeding America.
Staffers wore masks and abided by all safety guidelines, and guests stayed in their cars for the duration. "The biggest challenge was reimagining the guest experience to be optimized from within a vehicle," explained Craig Waldman, 15/40's president and chief creative officer. "We had to consider everything from proper guest viewing angles, touchless experiences, enhanced audio and video elements to amplify the experience, car safety elements from the entrance to exit, etcetera."
Grace Chow, senior producer of 15/40, said the experience showed the team that audiences are craving experiences right now, even if they look a bit different. "These experiences really touch guests in a memorable and extremely positive way—I’d say more so than ever before," she said, adding, "Our biggest lesson learned was that no matter what the challenges, with the right mindset, enough creativity, and flexibility, exciting events can and will continue to be successfully executed."
Scroll down to see inside the whimsical, over-the-top experience.