My family recently enjoyed a nostalgic summer activity with a modern twist. Bringing back memories of the drive-in movies, we attended our town’s first Movies in the Park event of 2012. Although drive-in movies have died out almost everywhere, movies shown in local parks are popular events in many cities and small towns across America, and more and more towns are introducing the family-friendly activity every year. This is the sixth year for Movies in the Park in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and the second year with their new inflatable screen. Based on the crowd that gathered for this summer’s first film, people love the event.
Big cities and small towns
Movies shown outdoors in a local park, usually free of charge to the viewers, can be found in cities like New York City, Chicago, Nashville, and Denver. But you don’t have to be in a big city to enjoy movies in the park. Smaller towns in almost every state have discovered that they can bring great family fun to their residents for much less than one might think. In fact, viewers in small towns may benefit more from events like these, since fewer entertainment options are usually available.
Cost of the event
I spoke with Drew Haley from the Tahlequah Main Street Association. He gave me a very long list of sponsors who help bring Movies in the Park to our community, including the local hospital, university, and many other businesses. He said that the cost of providing 10 films through the summer is approximately $4,500 for the whole season.
More than just a movie
Movies presented in the park are so much more than just a film. The first movie of the Tahlequah Movies in the Park series this year was “The Sandlot”, which hearkens back to a simpler time. Interestingly, the Movies in the Park experience also reminded me of simpler days. Kids gathered together to play on the playground, kick a ball around or jump in an inflatable bounce house before the movie began.
During the show, families relaxed in blankets and on lawn chairs, enjoying popcorn, turkey legs and barbecue sandwiches provided by local vendors. There were no disruptions, other than a toddler who managed to sneak away from her mom and steal a few hands full of popcorn from amused strangers. And thanks to new local ordinances, smoking was prohibited in the park, which kept the experience safe and pleasant for everyone.
Quality of the show
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show, which began at dusk. I remember waiting for full darkness to set in at the drive-in movies, and if the previews started a bit early, they were difficult to see. I also remember the tinny sound through the drive-in speakers and the grainy picture on the giant screen. The picture on the inflatable screen at the Movies in the Park event was clear and the sound was crisp and loud enough for the whole crowd to hear.
Bring Movies in the Park to your town
If your community does not offer Movies in the Park, talk to the members of the local chamber of commerce and see if the event might be brought to your town soon. When the cost is shared by many sponsors, the event is very affordable, and much appreciated by viewers.
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