Orlando Sentinel: Outdoor movies please audiences in dozens of Florida cities

outdoor moviesJim Carrey's film "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" is shown for an audience on the lawn of Leesburg City Hall.В (Jacob Langston, Orlando SentinelВ /В DecemberВ 21, 2011)

Orlando Sentinel: Outdoor movies please audiences in dozens of Florida cities

The Orlando Sentinel recently posted the an article about outdoor movies and specifically Open Air Cinema equipment that is being used to entertain thousands throughout Florida! You can go to the article by clicking here, or you can read it below. Contact us today at 866-802-8202 or fill out our online contact form to order your Open Air Cinema outdoor movie system. By Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel 6:34 p.m. EST, December 26, 2011 The big, green, Grinchy face of Jim Carrey flickered on a 25-foot-high inflatable screen in front of Jason Davis as the aroma of fresh popcorn washed over the lawn of Leesburg City Hall. Davis, 34, a corporate lawyer in Orlando, and his fiancГ©e, Shawnda McIntosh, brought their blended brood to downtown Leesburg last week with blankets and pillows for a holiday movie under the stars. They looked as if they were part of a giant municipal slumber party as more than 300 people were sprawled out on the grounds, many in pajamas, watching the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." More than two dozen Florida cities from Jacksonville to Miami, including several in Central Florida, own inflatable or portable cinema systems that provide low-cost often free entertainment for residents and serve as magnets for local events. The movies, which are relatively cheap to stage, allow cities to project a warmer image. "It's been a peaceful evening for me and Shawnda," said Davis, his 3-year-old son, Tyler, fast asleep and the other kids transfixed by Dr. Seuss' tale. "Any time you can keep two 6-year-olds and a 3-year-old entertained for two hours, you're doing something right. It makes a nice night nicer." If he had heard Davis' thumbs-up review, Joe Shipes, like the Grinch, might have felt his heart suddenly grow three sizes larger. Shipes, executive vice president of a community group that bought the inflatable screen and projection equipment at a trade show, had insisted the $7,500 investment could help with the "social revitalization" of the city's downtown. The city showed three movies in December, hoping to draw families downtown for something other than the library. "There are a lot of people who don't even know Leesburg has a downtown," Shipes said, noting that the city has a bypass that routes traffic around the city's core, which does not have a cinema. "We're trying to create a new sense of place. It's seemed to work, too. People love it." Big-screen outdoor movies combine two of America's greatest loves, said Brandon Purdie, president of Utah-based Open Air Cinema, the nation's largest provider of inflatable screens and outdoor-cinema systems. "We love the outdoors, and we love movies," he said. The company's products have been featured at outdoor venues, including the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the nation's largest independent-film festival, and at Disney properties. Purdie said the company also has sold its open-air systems to more than 30 Florida hotels, many of which use them poolside for "dive-in" movies. Purdie said movies permit cities to target specific crowds. "You choose the content [on the screen], you choose the crowd," he said. Jeff Hayes, parks and recreation director in Ocoee, which recently showed "The Smurfs" on an inflatable screen at Bill Breeze Park in front of Starke Lake, said the movie events create a stronger sense of community. "We've got a beautiful setting with the lake as a backdrop," Hayes said. "We're always trying to find different things that we can provide at affordable prices. And watching a movie outside under the stars on a big screen is just more fun than sitting at home and watching it from the couch." The city will show "Kung Fu Panda 2" next month. He said the movies have been successful events, coaxing families to the park the same way that the city's farmers market entices picky shoppers. Orange City in Volusia County shows an outdoor movie about once a month at Dickinson Park on a 16-by-9-foot inflatable screen, part of a cinema system the city purchased about a year ago. Although the movies are generally G-rated kids' fare, for Halloween the city offered a Friday night outdoor-film series featuring the twisted thrillers of director Alfred Hitchcock, including the classic black-and-white "Psycho." About six years ago, officials at Harry P. Leu Gardens, the botanical oasis on North Forest Avenue in Orlando, acquired a large inflatable movie screen in honor of Helen Gardner, a silent-film-era star and director who had lived on the grounds in the early 1900s. Leu Gardens frequently uses the outdoor screen to show romantic comedies as part of its "Date Night" series, which is "always [advertised as] weather-permitting," joked Tracy Micciche, events and marketing manager. She said the flicks create a special buzz that introduces the gardens to an audience unfamiliar with flora. Micciche said about 400 people, many of whom sat on blankets or in folding chairs, attended the gardens' outdoor showing of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," the final installment of the film series chronicling the adventures of the teenage wizard. "We try to mix it up," Micciche said, pointing out that the botanical center has shown black-and-white classics ("Casablanca"), thrillers ("Inception") and pop musicals ("Mamma Mia!"). It will show "Crazy, Stupid Love" on Valentine's Day. Skeptical of the movie events, Chet Blackmon, owner of Jewelry Works in downtown Leesburg, warmed up to the strategy after watching the Dec. 18 showing of "Elf," the story of an oversized Santa's helper in New York. "I guess it's kind of corny, but watching all those kids and families bundled up in blankets, sitting there eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate and watching the movie together gave me a truly warm and fuzzy, satisfied feeling," he said. "And what I liked even more [the movie] was free." So touched, Blackmon sprung for popcorn and hot chocolate for the whole audience. shudak@tribune.com or 407-883-5267

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