Anna G. Larson, Published August 04 2013
Outside at the movies
The movies Chad Zimmer shows on his backyard movie screen might be modern, but watching them under the stars feels like a trip to times gone by, he says.
Zimmer, of Fargo, hosts outdoor movie nights in the summer with his 7-year-old daughter, Karianna. He says it brings back the feeling of drive-in movie theaters and promotes neighborhood and family togetherness.
“It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, and you have that good bonding time with your kid,” Zimmer says.
“Zim’s Annual Summer Movie Nights” are relaxed, family-focused affairs. Zimmer provides the movie, sound equipment and screen, and sometimes the food. Neighborhood families bring blankets and chairs to sit on, and the flick starts when the sun goes down.
Downtown, large-scale outdoor movie nights are hosted by the Fargo Park District throughout the summer at Island Park. Each showing draws 500 to 1,000 people, says Jeff Heisler, the recreation specialist for the Fargo Park District.
“They’re a blast. It’s one of the best things the park district does,” Heisler says.
He says the crowd gets bigger each year, and he thinks it’s because free family activities are
difficult to find. The park
district has hosted movie nights for nine years.
A large inflatable screen with surround-sound speakers is set in the park, and movie-goers bring their own seating. Luther Family Ford provides free popcorn and pop.
“It’s awesome, watching people watch the movie. It’s family entertainment,” Heisler says.
Want to host a movie night in your backyard? Zimmer and Heisler shared tips for a successful outdoor bash.
- Make sure neighbors are OK with it.
Since outdoor movie nights start when the sun sets, usually around 9 p.m., Zimmer checks with his neighbors to make sure they’re cool with him
firing up his projector.
- Don’t be shy.
Wanting to involve as many new people as he could, Zimmer and his daughter went door to door in their neighborhood passing out fliers about their movie night in hopes of making it a neighborhood social event.
“I think sometimes we get kind of scared to get to know our neighbors,” he says. “Check out your neighborhood. If it’s a kid-friendly neighborhood, movie nights are positive.”
The popularity of Zimmer’s movie nights has led to neighbors talking about hosting a block party and other events.
- Gather equipment.
Because he owns DJ service Zims Entertainment, Zimmer already had a screen, projector and speakers.
No screen? Pinterest and other websites have instructions for creating a makeshift movie screen out of bed sheets and poles.
Movies can be played off a computer using a projector, which can be purchased online or at stores such as Best Buy for about $150 and up.
- Choose movies wisely.
Animated films are usually going to appeal to both children and adults, Heisler says.
The Fargo Park District has shown movies such as “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and “Monster’s Inc.”
Zimmer has his 7-year-old help him pick movies, and he also throws in old movies such as “The Goonies” to introduce a new generation to the
classics. He says children’s movies such as “Wreck-It Ralph” are often just as entertaining for adults as they are for kids.
- Bring bug spray.
Mosquitoes can create a kink in movie night fun, so Heisler suggests wearing bug spray. Citronella candles or torches will do the trick outside, too.
- Plan a date.
The Fargo Park District never hosts movies on the weekend because many local people are busy with summer travels. Instead, movie nights are held on weekdays.
Zimmer does the same, choosing Wednesday as his standard day for hosting outdoor flicks.
- Have a back-up plan.
Each movie night at Zimmer’s has an alternate date, a rain date, in case the weather is bad. The rain date is usually a couple of weeks later.
If homeowners have the space, outdoor movie nights can be brought inside when the weather’s lousy.
- Treats, please.
Popcorn and pop are classic movie treats, and they’re just as good
outside. Zimmer and his neighbors provide snacks and treats of all types, such as pizza, hot dogs, popcorn and ice cream.
- Check licenses.
People don’t need a license to show movies from the privacy of their home, but it is required when showing movies in a public facility like a school or park, according to motion picture distributor Swank Motion Pictures.
The park district, for instance, can only show Disney movies at certain times, per their license with the distribution company and special copyrights.
- Make it an event.
With the popularity of al fresco movie nights, there’s no shortage of inspiration online.
Check out Pinterest and blogs for ideas on how to make it a themed event with fun décor and tasty treats.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525
If you go
What: Fargo Park District movie night featuring “Hotel Transylvania”
When: 8:45 p.m. Aug. 12
Where: Island Park
Info: Moviegoers are responsible for their own seating. Blankets are preferred, but chairs are allowed, too.
For more information, visit www.fargoparks.com.