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Anna G. Larson, Published August 04 2013

Outside at the movies

FARGO – First, it was “Wreck-It Ralph.” Then a month later, “Brave.”

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.

“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.

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.

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.

Zimmer does the same, choosing Wednesday as his standard day for hosting outdoor flicks.