Composer and bandleader Justin Sherburn knows a thing or two about staging movies. He’s made a niche for himself and his indie orchestra Montopolis combining his original music with film and sometimes live narration to produce compelling productions. Montopolis has toured its “Music for Enchanted Rock” and “The Legend of Big Bend” around the Lone Star State.
But like so many artists practicing in live performance, Sherburn and Montopolis have struggled to ply their art with coronavirus shutdowns. They’ve managed to put on a few shows at Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In, and presented a livestream by playing from an empty venue.
But now Sherburn is kicking it up a notch with the just-launched Rocket Cinema, a roving initiative of socially-distanced outdoor movies.
“With almost all of our Montopolis shows cancelled in 2020, I had to figure out something to do with myself,” Sherburn said in a press statement. “I made a pretty risky gamble and took out a title loan on my van. I bought all the things for a mobile drive-in theater. I’m excited about supporting local performers this fall anyway that I can.”
Risk indeed: Sherburn invested $20,000 of his money to purchase a 40-foot inflatable screen, an 11k lumen projector, and an FM transmitter that can broadcast audio to car stereos.
For the immediate future, Sherburn won’t be presenting his own shows, but will instead be partnering with others. And he’s got working relationships with indie venue Rogge Ranch House, which has 3 acres of outdoor space, and Pioneer Farms, a 90-acre living history museum, with a 60-car parking lot perfect to stage a drive-in movie experience.
That parking lot is where, on Sept. 18-19, Rocket Cinema will screen classics Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and Buster Keaton’s “The General.” Tickets are $7 per car, $5 per passenger. For reservations go to rocketcinematexas.com/now-playing
Then on Oct 17, the ghost-chasing Night Owl podcast team will bring a show to Pioneer Farms (which is famously haunted).
Sherburn’s also working with indie orchestra band The Invincible Czars to screen their live score of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” And he’s also donating his new set-up and services to Ground Floor Theater for a weekend of movie screening in its parking lot, a fundraiser for the venue that provides a stage to many independent production. (The date is TBA.)
Sherburn is offering the equipment at a discount to Austin non-profits and will help with movie licensing, audio, and live video options.