City sponsorship saves Moonlight Movies on the Beach series from cancelation

Organizers initially called off the beloved summer movie series on Saturday, citing a lack of funding.

City sponsorship saves Moonlight Movies on the Beach series from cancelation
An aerial shot of Moonlight Movies on the Beach. Photo courtesy of Beach Venture Enterprises.

Moonlight Movies on the Beach narrowly avoided canceling its summer film series this year due to financial difficulties. The beloved event was saved on Monday when the city of Long Beach stepped in as an official sponsor.

The event has brought cult classics and family-friendly films to the sand in Long Beach for 25 years, free of charge. This year, the eight-film series will go on as planned, with its first showing on July 9.

Community members were distraught on Saturday, the day organizers announced on social media that this year’s Moonlight Movies was canceled amid “rising costs and a lack of sponsorships.”

But calls to save the annual beachside cinema experience apparently reached Mayor Rex Richardson’s ear, organizer Kris Gragson told the Watchdog.

“We made the cancelation post and the next thing I know, the mayor calls me this morning and he’s like ‘We’ve got to make it happen, the people really want it,” Gragson said.

“I love taking my girls to the movies and we love the beach. Moonlight Movies on the Beach is the best of both worlds, great community programming, and extremely important to our city,” said Mayor Rex Richardson. “We are working with the organization, and we look forward to helping them get set up for future success.”

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Gragson has coordinated Moonlight Movies with Jesel Ortlof since 2012, the daughter of Moonlight Movies late founder, Fred Khammar.

While Ortlof’s company, Beach Venture Enterprises, provides all of the equipment necessary to host Moonlight Movies, there are hefty (and rising) costs to cover such as the rights to each movie, portable restrooms, city permits, marketing and staff to run each show. Costs have averaged $5,000 per showing, Gragson said. The Port of Long Beach is once again a sponsor of the series, but it simply wasn’t enough.

And for Gragson, any consideration to charge admission was off the table.

“It’s always been intended to be a free community event,” he said. “Especially nowadays with the price of gas and the price of eggs and everything — there’s not a lot of stuff out there that you can go for an evening with your family for free.”

The outdoor series will go on as planned, with six movies hosted at Granada Beach and two hosted at Long Beach City College. This year’s movies have not yet been announced.

“It doesn’t always happen, but it’s great when local city government hears the people and then they take action for what the people want,” Gragson said. “Sometimes their hands are tied, but this time, [they] came through.”

Kris Gragson is the director of marketing and sponsorships for Beach Venture Enterprises, which is owned by Jesel Ortlof.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Mayor Rex Richardson.

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