Havre beauty salon owner Cathi Campanella couldn't believe it last winter when she got a call from her father, who was watching an outdoor movie on a Malibu, California pier.
The idea fascinated Campanella, who loved watching drive-in movies while growing up in California in the 1970s. "There are very few old drive-in theaters left anymore," she noted.
She had her father Paul contact the Malibu businessman, Scott Tallal, who designs portable and fixed movie screens for a company, and drove to California with boyfriend and business partner, Stan Martin, the assistant Havre police chief.
They met Tallal and decided to purchase a 6-by-20-foot cloth screen with foldable aluminum framing, plus a projector, DVD player and computer for programming, for $10,000. They towed the screen home in a trailer behind their small SUV in a January snowstorm.
"We couldn't wait until the weather got better so we could show people our movie screen," Campanella said.
Campanella and Martin have kept their day jobs and have no employees yet in their part-time enterprise, Main Attraction Big Screen.
They've done a few different types of shows for free to get the word out about their business.
They projected the Super Bowl onto the wall at the Northern Winz Casino on the Rocky Boy's Reservation in early February. Casino fans enjoyed watching players who were "larger than life size" when the TV camera focused in on them, Martin said.
The pair also set up their screen for free to show the movie "Shrek the Third" to a Havre grade school, to blow up pictures of graduating Hays high school graduates and to let Havre High graduates play Guitar Hero and other video games at a graduation night party.
Main Attraction began getting some paying gigs recently, they said.
Two Havre parents paid them to run a movie and provide refreshments for a Girls Scout slumber party and a customer rented the screen to show an early Mel Gibson movie, "Mad Max 2," in a bar's parking lot for friends.
Campanella said rates for renting the movie screen depend on the length and complexity of the show and concessions, plus the distance she and Martin travel.
The starting rate is about $300 for an hour. In addition, the client usually has to rent the movie, which can cost from $150 to $1,000 for new films because of copyright laws.
The pair envision their projector, sound system and screen being used for weddings, family and class reunions and other events.
"We hope we can help people learn to enjoy outdoor movies again," Campanella said. "We'd be willing to go anywhere in the state to set up."