Miami, Florida: Outdoor Movies at the University of Miami
Six-year-old Kevin Cassinera looks forward to Friday movie nights. That's when his father, Carlos Cassinera, takes him and a friend along with a blanket, lawn chair and a box of pizza to the free outdoor movie screenings offered on the University of Miami's campus. ''We make sure to come every month,'' said Cassinera, a 20-year Coral Gables resident. ``We never miss it," he said prior to a recent showing of Bee Movie. UM calls the movie showings ''Screen on the Green,'' one of several events that seek to attract residents in the university's surrounding neighborhoods to campus. ''We want our neighbors to feel that it's a good thing to live next door to UM, that we're not just about football and academics,'' said Vivian Miller, who heads the program that offers the screenings as well as other activities for local residents. ``We care about our community as well.'' As many as 1,500 residents and business owners bordering the campus receive discounts for films, movies, concerts and campus dining through the five-year-old community outreach program called CollegeTown. They also receive discounts for the Wellness Center, the Lowe Art Museum and the bookstore, as well as some privileges at the Otto G. Richter Library. Whether they're biking or walking through the university's Ibis Walking Trail or catching an outdoor movie, Cassinera, a 47-year-old sports marketing consultant, and his family frequently come to UM to enjoy some of the amenities the campus offers. ''The UM campus is a great place to relax and entertain the kids,'' Cassinera said. The amenities, he added, ``are excellent not only for kids but for adults.'' When the university planned the construction of University Village, a student apartment complex on Red Road, some residents protested. That became a catalyst for the creation of the CollegeTown program in 2003. It became a platform where the community could connect with the university, UM's Miller said. Residents with homes or businesses east of Red Road, west of Granada Boulevard, south of Campo Sano Avenue and north of Hardee Road are eligible to participate in the program. Participants are given a 'Cane Community Card, which must be used exclusively by members of their immediate household. ''The response has been overwhelmingly positive toward the CollegeTown program. And every year the program has grown in popularity since its inception in 2003,'' said Miller, who also is the university's director of community relations. She cited ''Jazz on the Green'' as being especially successful with the community, reaching a peak audience of 600 people attending last year's performance. The concerts, performed by faculty and students in the School of Music, are held each winter and spring. A newsletter is mailed biannually to 2,000 Coral Gables residents as well as a weekly e-mail update to provide information on performances, events and exhibits open to the public. Although the program offers discounts and benefits to its nearby neighbors, ''Screen on the Green'' and the ''Jazz on the Green'' are open to the larger Gables community as well as South Miami, Miller said. Despite now living in Palmetto Bay, former Coral Gables resident Andrea Hall said the services the university offers are great for the community, and she continues to bring her family to the public events. ''This is as close to a hometown feeling you're going to find in Miami,'' she said.