Cinema Under the Stars is one of our most popular summer programs, but there’s a lot more to it than just choosing the movies.
Cinema Under the Stars is one of our most popular summer programs—as well as a big logistical challenge. Choosing films, prepping space, coordinating with event partners and scheduling around other summer events, is a concerted effort that starts early in the year and makes for some very hectic Wednesdays. And then, there is the always unpredictable weather where it’s not rain, but wind, that can cancel a movie night in a moment’s notice. Here are a few of the things that happen behind the scenes before the popcorn pops, the sun goes down and the magic gets projected onto a big inflatable screen.
THE NOT SO SIMPLE SCIENCE OF CHOOSING A MOVIE
Jurassic Park is a classic adventure film and a perfect fit for a free outdoor movie on a big screen: it’s a fun PG-13 movie that appeals to a wide demographic with little swearing and zero nudity. (We like it so much, we’ve shown it twice in the last couple of years.) But there are other factors we have to take into consideration when we choose a movie like who has the distribution rights, what is the run time, and which studio released it?
You can’t just show a movie with an active copyright in public, even if there is no admission fee—a public performance license fee has to be paid to the distributor who owns the rights to the movie. At Regina Downtown, we use two companies for our movies and between them we have access to a vast selection of both classic and recent releases, from classic Disney to the latest animated treat from Pixar. As you can imagine, the fee for an older film that’s been around on DVD for a while is less than for a film just closing down it’s theatrical run and being offered in prerelease.
When it comes to our schedule for Cinema Under The Stars it is definitely subject to change, mainly because studios obviously want the biggest theatre audience possible for their big-budget summer releases. Our switching dates for Zootopia and The Jungle Book was the result of Disney deciding it didn’t want a live action film showing at outdoor cinemas when their new take on Pete’s Dragon is just hitting theatres.
Sorry, Deadpool. We love you but your movie just doesn’t make the cut for Cinema Under The Stars.
Timing is also huge and not an exact science. Last year, we planned to show Jurassic World. The prerelease date (after the film has largely left theatres but before release to DVD) was right in line with our schedule, but then something happened that no one expected, not even the film distributors—the movie blew up at the box office. At that point, all scheduling bets were off and we were left dangling on the hook until we just ran out of summer schedule and ended up opting to run the original Jurassic Park. So while our movie list is fairly set by the time of the first showing in July, you can see why it may also stay fluid to a degree while we try and secure a prerelease with a big TBD listed under the release date. We were hoping to show Captain America: Civil War this season, but we couldn’t get a guaranteed release before September, so it was reluctantly crossed off the list.
If you think Cinema Under the Stars shows a lot of animated movies, unabashedly, we do. Always a safe bet for the kids, most have appeal to teens and adults, and…they normally run around 100 minutes. Live action films are going to tick in at 2 hours plus almost guaranteed. When the sun isn’t setting until after 9pm, the shorter the film the better.
Lastly, there may not be another subject that gathers such vast and varied opinions as personal preference in movies. But we do ask, and we do try to take your suggestions into consideration. You will see polls through Facebook and here on the website that ask the question, “What movie would you like to see?” Earlier this season, Jurassic World was chosen through popular vote and over 1,000 moviegoers came out to enjoy the dinospectacle.