In its fourth year, Movies In The Park is reducing the number of movies shown this summer, but increasing the amount of family activities, organizers said.
In the past, the free movies were shown every Friday night at different parks throughout Middletown. Organizer Jeri Lewis said that schedule was “overwhelming” to the committee and confusing to local residents.
So now the movies will be shown the first and third Friday night of every month at either the Swallen’s lot near the YMCA or at Goldman Park. She said the family activities begin at 7 p.m. and the outdoor movies start at 8:30 p.m. The entire night is free and open to the public.
Lewis said the movie nights are successful because of the commitment made by local churches, downtown businesses and the City of Middletown. She said local churches have volunteered to provide free snacks. This week Blast Furnace will have free pizza, the Middletown Area YMCA will pass out water and the Middletown Area Safety Council will give out soda.
Other sponsors include Miami University Middletown, Cincinnati State Middletown and Atrium Medical Center.
“Mary Poppins” will be shown Friday, the first of six movies this summer. There also will be balloon animals, face-painting and a photo booth, Lewis said.
Lewis said the movie nights allow volunteers to show the “love of Jesus” outside the church walls.
“It’s so cool to watch,” said Lewis, who added she feels a “sense of community” at the movie nights.
“We want to engage them in a third space,” she said. “Just have conversations that aren’t churchy.”
Lewis started Movies In The Park in 2015 because she felt Middletown lacked affordable events that were family friendly and accessible. She searched on the Internet and found a city in California that hosted movie nights for its residents. She pitched the idea to Karin Maney, director of the Community Building Institute, and they organized the movie events that summer.
Now, Lewis said, the movie nights are attracting more families every year.
“That says a lot,” she said.
She recalled two conversations she had with families during last year’s movie nights. One man told Lewis that it was the first time he took his daughters to the movies and now he’s in drug treatment and foster parents of four children with disabilities thanked Lewis for providing a free night of entertainment that was accessible to the family.
“Those are the stories I care about,” she said.
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MOVIES IN THE PARK SCHEDULE
Free family activities begin at 7:30 p.m. Movies start about one hour later.
June 1: "Mary Poppins," Swallen's lot by the downtown YMCA
June 15: "Disney's A Wrinkle In Time," Goldman Park
July 6: "Coco," Swallen's lot by the downtown YMCA
July 20: "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," Goldman Park
Aug. 3: "Wonder Woman," Swallen's lot by downtown YMCA
Aug. 17: "The Emoji Movie," Goldman Park