Scott Thyen (Mr. Outdoor Theater) is - wow! - the coolest dad in the neighborhood. Kids, jumping up and down, often ask him When's the next movie? Are we going to see a movie tonight?
A couple years ago, Thyen, who lives in Sauk Rapids, decided to do an outdoor-movie night. He remembered the thrill, as a child, of going to outdoor theaters - the Cloud Theater in Waite Park and the 10-Hi Theater on south Highway 10. He remembered the tinny speakers clamped on rolled-down car windows, the foggy windshields on humid nights, the outdoor popcorn-and-candy stand and even the ever-present mosquitos.
Wouldn't it be fun, he thought one day, to introduce kids to the same outdoor thrills? So, two years, ago, Thyen decided to make his own outdoor theater.
In his back yard he set up a giant screen, rigged up a big projector, invited friends, relatives and neighbors over, and then they all had a blast, complete with fresh popcorn - not to mention some drawback pests like mosquitos.
It's a good way to get neighbors together and have some inexpensive fun, Thyen said. My wife, Tammie, and our kids (Josh, Jeremiah, Andria) just love it. So does everyone else.
The son of Wally and Mary Thyen, Scott grew up in Waite Park, not far from the outdoor Cloud Theater, which used to be on the site of where the indoor Parkwood Cinema is now. Outdoor theater, once upon a time, used to be practically a rite of passage for young children and teenagers. Parents would bundle up kids in pajamas and drive off to outdoor theaters. Young teenagers in hot rods would park on the vast lot in front of the giant screen, and some love-crazed couples would snuggle up and neck, especially during cheesy but scary movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space. Anybody who never squeezed into a car trunk to sneak into an outdoor movie was obviously born too late.
Thyen has fond memories of those days. That is why he wanted to reinvent the outdoor-movie experience for others, both kids and adults.
Some of the films they've enjoyed include National Treasure, The Goonies and Sand Lot. But the all-time favorite, so far, is RV, a movie starring Robin Williams about a madcap RV journey across America.
Everybody loved that one, Thyen said. Everybody loves a good movie.
Especially when the movie is shown outdoors, on a large screen and when all the viewers, young and old, are hunkered down together with snacks and happiness, under the stars, just like in the good old days.