Skye hotel goes ‘Back to the Future’ as 1950s movie drive-in nights raise £2,300 for island charity

The Sligachan Hotel on Skye has raised more than £2,300 for the Skye Community Response charity by serving up a three-night festival of films with a retro twist.

In a bid to raise money for charity, and entertain islanders amid the restrictions enforced by the Covid-19 crisis, the managers of the Sligachan Hotel, Gary and Deirdre Curley, hosted three nights of films last weekend in the fashion of a 1950s movie drive-in.

From Thursday through to Saturday, the hotel’s car park – which has been vacant for most of the year – was alive with the hustle and bustle of more than 150 people across the three nights of screenings of the 1950s-style hit musical Grease – which was shown twice – and the 1980s time-traveling classic Back to the Future.

As well as enjoying the films, in what would have arguably been many people’s first night out for several months, film-goers also tucked into food which wouldn’t have been out of place at Arnold’s drive-in diner in Happy Days, with car-side service of burgers, hot dogs and nachos all adding to the 50s vibe.

Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd as Marty McFly and “Doc” Emmett Brown in Back To the Future.

“The events all sold-out within hours of the tickets going on sale, so we were prepared as we knew it was going to be a busy event,” said Gary Curley.

“As people hadn’t been able to eat out, we wanted to give them a drive-in-themed American menu but using local produce as well to support local businesses.

He added: “We had lots of kids, lots of families, young couples, groups of friends who were able to safely socialise for the first time in a long time – that was the idea of the event – it was meant to be something very inclusive.”

Gary told the Free Press that the film nights involved a lot of preparation to enable the team to run the event safely in conjunction with health protocols for Covid-19.

“People could watch the movie and eat their food safely from their cars and we just thought that was a great way to bring the community together before the island starts to open up to tourists again.”

Film-goers were able to listen the movie by tuning into a special frequency.

He added: “There was a party atmosphere, we had one of our resident musicians playing covers from all the movies – he had all the cars tooting their horns and interacting him, you could really sense that people were really happy to be out the house and doing something with other people again – albeit from the safety of their cars.”

Touching on the money raised for Skye Community Response, Gary said: “The whole idea of it came from thinking how we could get the community together to reconnect in a safe way and enjoy the communal experience of watching a movie.

“Then with what people have been through on the island and some of the tragic events, we just felt that any profits should be donated to Skye Community Response for all the great work that they have done to support vulnerable people throughout this crisis and the work that they will continue to do to support people in the community.”

Gary said that the film screenings had generated more than £2,300 for Skye Community Response and that most of the future movie events would also see the profits going towards local charities.

Running out of time: Doc Brown endures difficulties while scaling the clock tower.

Gary told the Free Press that due to high winds on Sunday, the screening of Braveheart was postponed as the screens are designed to withstand wind speeds up to 24mph.

However, the film has been rescheduled for Friday 21st August. And in addition to Mel Gibson’s epic offering, Gary said that there are plans to host another two films in August as well as a spooktacular screening in October.

“Because the event was so popular, we have organised another two films for 22nd and 23rd of August as well.

“After that, we have plans to screen movies on Halloween – we’ll probably show a family-type film such as Ghostbusters – because it will be darker earlier – and then we’ll be able to show a classic horror film at midnight, which will be really cool!”

Commenting on the experience, Portree resident Marty Mackillop told the Free Press: “As a big film fan I’ve been known to travel hundreds of miles to see a particular film, so the opportunity to see a classic like Back to the Future at a drive-in cinema on Skye was an unmissable cultural event.

“This is a film which as a nine-year-old I saw five times in the cinema and have lost count how many times I’ve seen it since.

“This event proved just how vital, uplifting, and unique the cinema experience can be, and one which we will all remember for years to come.

“I can’t wait until the next time!”

Hugh Campbell captured the atmosphere at Saturday’s movie screening as part of a film for Skye Community Response.