DAYTON — While watching a movie is almost always a great time, the routine is the same. You buy your ticket, buy your popcorn and take a seat in a darkened theater with dozens of people you likely don’t know.
However, the Movies in the Park series offered by the Tongue River Valley Community Center is definitely a different kind of movie-watching experience. At least once a month, anywhere from 30 to 100 people gather in Dayton’s Scott Park to watch a movie in a communal setting. After the sun has dropped behind the mountains, the movie starts and people spread out in front of the band shell on their blankets or recline in a yard chair from home. Though popcorn is certainly on the menu for many, there is a larger variety of snacks and drinks brought from home.
Movies in the Park began five or six years ago, with the intent of providing an event on summer evenings for families, individuals and youth. Starting in late June, the TRVCC sponsors the movies, offering G or PG-rated films that are open for anyone to attend, free of charge.
“We encourage families to come out and enjoy a movie together in the park,” said Erin Kilbride, executive director of TRVCC. “We always ask them to bring their own blankets and chairs. We don’t sell popcorn or other concessions, but many people bring their own. It is a fun setting to watch a movie.”
The movie start time varies depending on the month but always begins after dusk when it is dark enough for the screen to be visible.
The first Movie in the Park, scheduled for June 26, unfortunately had to be canceled due to the threat of rain, but Kilbride hopes to show the planned movie, “The Nut Job” at July’s event.
“We start the series a little bit later in June so hopefully we get good weather, but that is not working so well so far this year,” Kilbride said.
The TRVCC does have to pay for licensing fees to show the movies, ranging from $500 to $1,000, but considers it a good investment in terms of community service.
“It fits with our mission in terms of providing opportunities,” Kilbride said. “We pay for it with our youth programming sponsorships. They are free movies, so it is not a fundraiser of any sort. It is just a community service.”
“I usually try to do them once a month but I am trying to get more organizations involved,” she continued. “If I can get other youth groups involved then we can each take a turn and provide more movies in the park and more variety.”
Kilbride said the Town of Dayton owns the equipment, including speakers, a large blow-up screen and a projector. She said it takes approximately one hour to set the equipment up and she is happy to teach other groups how to use it if they choose to sponsor a movie.
The movies are usually held on Thursday or Friday night and details about the date, time and movie title for upcoming shows are posted on the TRVCC website at www.trvcc.org
Any organization wishing to sponsor a Movie in the Park event, can call Kilbride at 655-9419.