Indoor trees...Planned Nashville attraction

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Indoor trees and fake stars: Planned Nashville attraction isn’t your grandpa’s drive-in.

A massive indoor replica of a 1960s American drive-in theater is planned for Nashville's East Bank area. - Nashville Business Journal

Called the August Moon Drive-In, the planned $6.5 million project is set to occupy 40,000 square feet at the intersection of James Robertson Parkway and Interstate 24. It will come complete with a simulated starry sky, seating in classic cars and milkshakes, according to New York-based designer Michael Counts, who created and designed the project.

"The goal is to transport audiences to a perfect summer night at a drive-in movie theater in the 1960s," Counts said. "If you were going to shoot a drive-in theater scene for a movie but for some reason wanted to do it on a soundstage, this is that set."

If successful, the project could act as an accelerant of the (very long-awaited) redevelopment of the East Bank, which is poised to land a massive mixed-use development and a Topgolf.

Counts said he and his partners, which include Nashville's Ken Levitan, the founder of Vector Management, have signed a letter of intent to lease a 7.7-acre property owned by Bill and Randy Bailey at the intersection, which is currently home to Main Event Parking. Counts said his group is hoping to wrap up the project's financing this quarter. He aims to open August Moon in 2018.

Counts has been working on the project for three years, with a 2015 article from Broadway World saying the project was set to open in 2016. But Counts said recent momentum in financing and conversations with Metro government make him confident 2018 will be the year August Moon rises.

The Nashville project is meant to be the flagship for the concept, which Counts hopes will eventually have locations in Shanghai, Los Angeles and across the world. Nashville was chosen as the initial home, Counts said, because of the city's classic American culture.

"What really hooked me was when USA Today did that article that called Nashville the most American American city. … [We'll put] this classic expression of American culture in this place that is already a great example of classic Americana," Counts said.

Wherever the venue goes after Nashville, Counts said, it will carry Nashville's brand with it.

"The culture of Nashville is in the core of our DNA. ... It's a Nashville brand, in effect," Counts said.

The venue, which is set to feature the largest non-IMAX screen in North America and a full bar, will show new and classic movies, with classic movies costing $8 to $20 to view, depending on seating.

"It doesn't need to be $60 [tickets]. ... We break even at about 30 to 40 percent of our capacity," Counts said. Capacity, he said, is 350 people.

Counts said he believes in this project more than any of his past projects — which include "Walking Dead"-themed experiences and a Michael Kors-themed theatrical event— because of the universal love of movies, burgers and milkshakes.

"People everywhere love vintage movies, ... burgers and milkshakes. ... From a business standpoint, I think it's an incredible opportunity, which don't come along all the time," Counts said. "I don't see a reason why there can't be more August Moon drive-ins in many other cities in many other countries in the world."