Film lovers weary of the couch and the metroplex have another place to watch movies this summer -- on the lawn, in the open air, under the stars. Outdoor movies meet the backyard with inflatable screens made just for the home. With demand exploding, Open Air Cinema has rolled out a line of backyard movie screens that Stuart Farmer, president of the Lindon-based company, says are every bit as good as any movie theater screen. Retail giant Target, for one, has noticed and is offering them.
The screens are big. Measured diagonally, they come in 10-, 14- and 18-foot sizes. They are inflatable, with no struts or framework to hold them up. And they withstand wind speeds as high as 20 mph.
"It's a no-brainer," Farmer said. "Americans love the outdoors and they love cinema, and we are a very social people. We like to invite the neighborhood over, have a barbecue and watch a movie."
The screens constitute eight-year-old Open Air's first thrust into the residential market. The company also helps clients plan outdoor movie screenings and supplies outdoor movie equipment to commercial and government customers.
One of its divisions has partnerships with humanitarian organizations and film festivals in Africa. Open Air works with FilmAid International, which shows movies in developing countries on portable Open Air screens to convey information on health and social issues. The Rwandan Film Festival uses several of the rugged screens to show movies in remote villages.
Target sells them for $499, $689 and $1,149 at www.target.com. The site was offering less-expensive screens, but after examining Open Air's products, Target decided to sell them, too, spokeswoman Leah Guimond said.
"The one provided by them is sort of the best option for our guests. We had offered a couple others at a lower price point, and then in working with [Open Air] we developed another option," Guimond said.
Farmer says outdoor screens have come a long way since drive-ins died and people hung bedsheets over a fence. Even a few years ago, screens were poorly made. Their surfaces wrinkled. Some weighed as much as 120 pounds. And they could be expensive.
"Our 10-foot system, you can buy everything for $1,500, including a projector [if you buy a package, which also includes audio equipment]. The price point is really finally down. A couple of years ago, it would have been at least $4,000," Farmer said.
Since then, the price of LCD projectors have come down considerably. Sound quality has been improved and the weight of Open Air screens has been sliced to 20 pounds, reducing manufacturing costs.
"We think there's at least a million homes that would be capable of purchasing one of these," Farmer said.
With 144 square feet of viewing surface -- if you buy the biggest screen -- the screens have raised a few eyebrows among skeptics who fear they could become nuisances. Farmer said street lamps cast a wider cone of light. The screens also come with a flap to cover the back, so that only the viewing surface is illuminated. And the volume on the audio equipment can be set low.
Tim Clawson, 52, who lives in Orem, bought an 18-foot screen in October. He has inflated it indoors a few times for church-sponsored video nights. When the weather improves, he expects the screen will be pressed into service outdoors regularly.
"I can just see a huge, huge use," Clawson said. "Really, we got it for the purpose for, first, family fun and neighborhood things, secondly for family reunions, and third, just to participate with church and school organizations, and just have a lot of fun."
This summer, Clawson and some friends will take the screen and a projector down to Little Sahara State Park. During the day, they'll film themselves charging their ATVs up and down the sand dunes. At night around a campfire, they'll fire up a generator and view their escapades on the big screen.
"It's totally transportable. We can take it anywhere," Clawson said.
Source: "Lindon company's backyard movie screens catching on" by Paul Beebe -Salt Lake Tribune. read full article at: http://www.tribtowns.com/comments/read_comments.asp?ref=12101381&hed=&sec=#