TINTON FALLS - Outdoor movies at the local drive-in theater were once a celebrated tradition in New Jersey, and one that T.J. and Heather Brustowicz hope to revive with their business, Shore Flicks.
With 16 and 40 foot inflatable movie screens complete with outdoor projection and sound systems available for outdoor events, the Brustowiczes are looking forward to their first full season and are currently booking dates
"Rather than go back to work, we thought, what can we come up with ourselves?" Brustowicz said. "We did some research and found a company that manufactured these inflatable screens. So we went from the idea in May to our first outdoor movie event in August, the Tinton Falls Community Day."
The Brustowiczes did some research and found the Utah-based Open Air Cinema
as a vendor of the inflatable movie screens, made of strong PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabric and able to withstand winds of up to 25 mph.
After deciding to move forward with Shore Flicks, the Brustowiczes invested more than $60,000 to start the business. While T.J. holds down another job, Heather has taken on the management of Shore Flicks full time.
Following the soft launch in the summer of 2007, the Brustowiczes hope to reach even more audiences for the 2008 season, and have already booked a number of events for their two inflatable blow-up movie screens.
Brustowicz said that Shore Flicks had booked about 30 outdoor events with the 16-foot inflatable screen and nearly a dozen with the big 40-foot inflatable screen, which he said could reach an audience of 3,000.
"It's about the size of a swimming pool, about three stories high" Brustowicz said. "It is very impressive."
One of the events that Shore Flicks has booked for this season is a celebration in Hazlet to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the drive-in theater.
The drive-in was invented on June 6, 1933, in Camden, according to Brustowicz. He explained that while there had once been more than 40 drive-ins in the state, Hazlet's Route 35 was the last when it closed down in 1991. Though one drive-in theater opened elsewhere in the state in recent years, Brustowicz said that the once popular tradition has dwindled.
For that reason, Shore Flicks hopes to mark this anniversary with numerous outdoor movie events throughout the Jersey Shore, and perhaps even create a drive-in of their own, Brustowicz said.
"That's one of the inspirations for us, too, to recapture that," he said.
Some fun events for the new business included last year's mini "drive-in" for their daughter's second birthday, which allowed tykes to roll up on their mini-wheels to enjoy a drive-in movie birthday party.
Shore Flicks kicked off the open air movie season a few weeks ago at Beauty Ball 2008, a cancer fundraiser held on an estate in Colts Neck.
"According to the organizers, our 16-foot inflatable screen 'made the event,' " Brustowicz said.
The outdoor movie screen was for a silent auction during the event, displaying the logos of sponsors and afterward Shore Flicks had a camera set up so that dancers could see themselves on the big screen.
"With community or charity events, we want to help them bring added value to their sponsors," Brustowicz said. "It's a little added value to put commercials up on the screen and maybe a little incentive for them to help out at the event."
He explained that Shore Flicks provides the inflatable screen, outdoor projector, sound system, DVD players/game systems, even power if necessary and that staff will set up equipment and be on hand throughout the event, promptly breaking down after the show.
"The screens are perfect for backyards and block parties. We had a block party last year where everyone played guitar hero before watching a movie."
From backyards to beaches, Brustowicz said that the screens can be used for events from poolside movies or neighborhood video game tournaments, to community fundraisers and charitable events.
"We have a lot of fun events on tap, including various charity bookings," Brustowicz said, adding that Shore Flicks offers a reduced rate for fundraisers.
For a single event, Shore Flicks charges $700 for the 16-foot screen and $2,700 for the 40-foot inflatable movie screen. For a series of at least four events, the rates are $600 per event and $2,500 per event, respectively.
"We're hoping that we kept our prices reasonable," he said. "We're not out to make a killing. We want to make this accessible to people."
Another benefit, according to Brustowicz, is the convenience of having an outdoor movie business on the Jersey Shore. Shore Flicks is booked for an outdoor movie night at Pier Village in Long Branch, which had previously used a company from Massachusetts to show movies.
"We're looking forward to having a lot of fun and taking the business to other parts of the state," Brustowicz said, citing bookings in Union and Metuchen. "But our focus obviously is right here at home."
He added that Shore Flicks is now in full swing for the summer season and that the outlook is good for the future.
"It's a fun little business," Brustowicz said. "The fun thing about it, too, is that you can see the movies you've been watching for the last 20 years, on a big screen, and it looks awesome."
He added that the movies looked great on both inflatable screens, as they used some very powerful outdoor projectors.
"The best time to show them is about 20 minutes after sunset," Brustowicz said. "It looks so sharp. The sound and picture are terrific."
He added that while people are free to show any movie they wish in their own backyard, public showings require a film license. Shore Flicks will help customers through that process, which Brustowicz said is akin to a more expensive version of Netflix, allowing a temporary right to show a certain film.
He added that they would gauge this summer on how they might grow, perhaps adding a second 16-foot inflatable screen or a 25-foot inflatable screen to their stock.
"It depends on where things go this year, and on where demand seems to be," Brustowicz said. "We hope for another good year, and that we continue to grow.'
He added that the outdoor movies draw people in, and make them want to be a part of events.
"It's going to be a fun summer," Brustowicz said. "I have a feeling we'll be seeing 'Shrek' a lot this summer."
To see Shore Flicks' screens in action, some upcoming outdoor movie events that are open to the public include the Pier Village Movies Under the Stars series in Long Branch, an autism fundraiser with the Lakewood Blue Claws at First Energy Park on July 16, and other events in Atlantic Highlands, Hazlet, Wall and Spring Lake.
More information about Shore Flicks and upcoming events can be found at www.shoreflicks.com