Playing under the stars at a park, church or campground near you this summer are family favorite outdoor movies such as "Madagascar" "E.T." and "Kung Fu Panda." Just bring a portable radio, blankets and lawn chairs to the portable outdoor cinema. And the movies under the stars are free.
Ronald Vastola is borrowing from the drive-in movie concept and bringing outdoor movie viewing to new heights. His company, USA Theatres under the Hershey Drive-In Theatre moniker, travels around the midstate showing outdoor films on a portable three-story inflatable screen.
Starting at dusk Friday and Saturday, the Ben Stiller/Chris Rock film "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" will play at Shank Park in Derry Twp.
After a successful first run last year, the company has added more venues this summer. The films show mostly on Friday and Saturday nights.
The movie nights usually attract between 500 and 1,500 viewers, and as many as 3,000 viewers who attended one recent church event, Vastola said.
"I'm pleased and surprised. Everyone enjoys an outdoor film. It's like bringing something back. It's retro, nostalgic to have something like this," he added.
Some of the showings such as those at Shank Park, are open to the public while other dates, such as one this summer for students, alum and staff at the Milton Hershey School, are private.
Ashowing of "Evan Almighty" last Friday at Evangelical Free Church of Hershey was designed for younger members of the church to gather and for the church to do outreach, said Kirk Belmont, the church's associate pastor.
"To have the opportunity to watch a movie like that on a big screen and offer it to people in our congregation for free is a neat experience outside," he said.
Vastola is the former president of the York Drive-In Theatre, a mobile drive-in that operated at the York Expo Center in 2006 and 2007.
He said he wanted to change direction and bring the mobile drive-in to Hershey as a community outreach for groups and churches. The company's tagline is "Driven with Purpose."
Vastola, a self-described born-again Christian, said he's bold with his faith but doesn't want people to get the idea they are coming to see religious films.
"It's all secular. My vision was just keeping Hollywood in check with the rating systems," he said.
All of the films are family-friendly and none exceeds a PG-13 rating. The portable screen weighs 1,000 pounds and measures 40 feet high by 48 feet wide. It is staked into the ground much as a tent is erected.
"You look like a little grasshopper standing next to it," Vastola said.
The company operates mainly on sponsorships from companies such as Turkey Hill, The Hershey Co. and Isaac's Deli & Restaurant. Many of the venues pay a fee to bring in the mobile movies.
Vastola said he's hoping to expand the concept next summer with a second portable screen. He said he has already had to turn down requests from venues this year.
"It's an experience. People come out for the outdoor experience. It's not every day you can get outside and see a movie," he said.
Source: "Starry nights and movie stars" -PennLive. Read full article at: http://www.pennlive.com/movies/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/entertainment/1243789808282680.xml&coll=1