Drive-in cinema: An evening of popcorn, sing-a-longs and sunsets at ‘Movies at the Manor’

PUBLISHED: 09:42 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:01 21 August 2020

The three-day Movies at the Manor event at Thornton Manor, Wirral, is in aid of The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity. Photo: Getty

The three-day Movies at the Manor event at Thornton Manor, Wirral, is in aid of The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity. Photo: Getty

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The three-day drive-in cinema at Thornton Manor Estate, Wirral, in support of Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, is a perfect way to spend a summer’s evening – and the Mazda CX-30 is the cherry on top

The CX-30 GT Sports Tech gives an impressive cinematic experience. Photo: David SmithThe CX-30 GT Sports Tech gives an impressive cinematic experience. Photo: David Smith

I have a confession. Well... two actually.

The first is that I’ve never been to a drive-in cinema, and the second is that Mamma Mia is up there in my top three movies. So it’s safe to say I jumped at the chance to put the two together and enjoy an evening at the Wirral’s iconic Thornton Manor Estate, on the opening night of its three-day event, Movies at the Manor, in aid of Clatterbridge Cancer Charity and sponsored by Mitchell Mazda (among others), who were kind enough to lend me a Mazda CX-30 to compliment the evening.

The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity opened its brand-new cancer hospital in Liverpool in June, and money raised from the drive-in cinema will help improve patient experience and fund vital research, the latest therapies and innovations in cancer treatment. The charity currently provides highly specialist cancer care to 2.4 million people across Cheshire, Merseyside and the surrounding areas.

On driving up the superbly grand estate entrance, we were kindly guided into our parking spot by friendly charity volunteers. Spaces were on a first-come-first served basis; we managed to bag a pretty good one towards the middle of the field. We were parked in the ‘standard’ ticket section, with the rows in front filled by lines of cars with a ‘gold’ or ‘silver’ ticket.

It was a simple yet clever set-up: a large LED screen truck was positioned at the top end of the field, with luxurious portaloos nearby. Social distancing was a doddle with the clever use of parking cones to mark out each space, which were laid out for optimum view of the screen.

Is there anything better than a summer's evening watching Mamma Mia at the drive-in? Photo: Rachel DeanIs there anything better than a summer's evening watching Mamma Mia at the drive-in? Photo: Rachel Dean

It’s fair to say we had a perfectly good view – no cricked necks but rather a chilled-out experience from an enjoyable, easy-watching distance. Even my sister and her six-foot-three boyfriend were comfortable watching from the back seats.

It was interesting to learn how the 60-acre estate is steeped in history: it was once the home of William Lever, famous for his work and legacy in the soap industry. He bought Thornton Manor in 1888; the same year he started the build of Port Sunlight factory and village for his workers, before spending the next 25 years rebuilding the estate.

The now owner, Philip Cowan, bought the estate in 2004 and has lived within the grounds ever since. The estate hosts weddings all-year round, but as the current pandemic has put a hold on the wedding season, Philip has spent his time kitting out the 14 on-site holiday cottages with hot tubs so that visitors can continue to visit the Manor and enjoy their countryside staycations in style.

Talking about Lord Leverhulme, Philip says: “He was probably the most capable entrepreneur of all time.”

The magic of the estate’s history definitely adds to the drive-in experience, making the perfect backdrop as the sun sets behind the big screen.

My love for a Mamma Mia sing-a-long was taken to another level by the generous loan of the Mazda CX-30 GT Sport Tech. We hooked up to the movie sound through the car radio, tuning in to a specific frequency which sounded great through the Mazda’s 12 speaker Bose surround sound.

Even with the windows down and sun-roof open, the boom of ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Super Trouper’ had me grinning like the Cheshire cat. As the sunlight faded and the temperature dropped, we closed the windows and became fully immersed in the cinematic experience.

The car was very spacious given its family SUV design; the upper level trim providing both comfort and driving luxuries including a clear head-up display; front cross traffic display and both front and reverse parking cameras and sensors gave an overall feel of quality and a high standard.

Although I only took it on a short drive, its smooth ride and quiet environment made for easy driving. The car was kindly leant by Mitchell Mazda of Chester, named after Mitchell Group managing director Mark Mitchell. It’s unique in that Mark’s name stands proud above the front door – a site shared by Skoda, with Lexus just across the road.

I have to say, the Mazda CX-30, specifically the GT Sport Tech, was the perfect accompaniment to my first drive-in movie experience – if only I could keep it forever. And what better way to spend a summer’s evening than scoffing popcorn in the countryside, watching your favourite film on the big screen and supporting local charity while you’re at it – all finished off with a cheer and a pomp of the horn.

There’s still tickets available to watch your favourite films at Movies at the Manor, in support of The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity:

Friday, August 21st

11:00 – Back to the future (PG)

3:00PM – Dirty dancing (12)

8:00PM - Alien (15)

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