If you want to watch a free movie under the stars, you’ll have plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks.
A combination of cheaper technology and a desire for community experiences is driving a proliferation of outdoor movie nights in the Sacramento region.
All eight Sacramento City Council districts now host outdoor movie nights. Parks districts throughout the suburbs hold them, as do elementary schools in the fall.
The events are free and relaxed, plus kids can run around in the park beforehand to alleviate their energy, said Bob Hayes, owner of Sacramento Outdoor Movies, which has gone from five shows in 2009 to at least 50 shows per summer now.
“In the world of Facebook friends ... we still like to get together as human beings and share a common event,” Hayes said. “For the older people, they remember the drive-in theaters ... for the millennials and all the way down to the little kids, it’s a solid family event.”
It used to cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy a projector strong enough to show a movie outside, but the technology has become cheaper, he noted.
“The price keeps coming down,” Hayes said. “It finally got affordable to have a projector bright enough to put something up on the screen for a lot of people.”
Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District began their Movies in the Park series in 2012 after a community member volunteered the idea, said Recreation Coordinator Sabrina Bernardo. The events get similar attendance to their Comedy Under the Stars and Concerts in the Park series, but the audience is different.
“Movies (in the Park) is definitely more family-geared,” Bernardo said, whereas comedy and concerts get an older crowd.
This year, Fair Oaks is throwing a Grown Up Movie Night for that older crowd – a July 28 event at Plaza Park, complete with a beer tasting, backyard games and chair massages.
“We just kind of heard feedback from the community that the movies that we were showing were children’s movies, and they wanted a movie night for themselves,” Bernardo said.
Hayes first experienced the movie-in-the-park concept at one of former Sacramento Councilman Steve Cohn’s “Screen on the Green” events. At the time, Hayes was running an audio/visual production company, but he was focused on indoor events.
“He had an inflatable screen – I had never seen that before,” Hayes said. He looked around and thought to himself: “I have everything here except for an inflatable screen.”
The inflatable screen is key, he said, because there isn’t a cost-effective solid structure that can withstand a gust of wind. When he was first experimenting with the concept, he rented an indoor metal-framed screen that bent in the first breeze and cost him $300 in repairs.
As for the biggest outdoor screens, Sacramento no longer has the vast number of drive-in theaters it once had – the website Cinema Treasures says the region had 13 at one point. But the West Wind All Digital Drive-In at Bradshaw Road is still going strong, and demand for outdoor flicks is growing in general, according to owner Syufy Enterprises.
The company has reopened two shuttered drive-ins in recent years as business has accelerated. One in Santa Barbara had been closed for 19 years.
“It was almost like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ” said Syufy’s vice president of marketing, Tony Maniscalco. “We went into the projection booth ... covered in cobwebs are two projectors.”
Around 2007 and 2008, business at the drive-ins picked up, he said. A ticket costs $7.95 for an adult and $1.25 for a child.
“From an entertainment perspective, the drive-ins are a great bargain,” Maniscalco said. “People were looking for lower-cost entertainment options and they found that at the drive-in. They also discovered that the drive-ins are really clean and family-oriented and not the passion pits they used to be.”
Check out The Bee’s comprehensive list of 2017 outdoor movies in the region: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article160143254.html