Dusk couldn't come fast enough on June 5 as scores of families waited for the Disney animated film Tangled to start on the 30-foot outdoor inflatable screen in Meridian's Settlers Park. Excited chatter filled the park just prior to the launch of the season opener for the CableONE Movie Night in Meridian series, which will continue each Friday through Aug. 28.
"We've been to one other movie night. It's just a lot of fun," said one mom who, in tandem with another mom, was wrangling five children. "My kids have a great time and of course, we love that it's free."
The early summer weather cooperated, offering a near-perfect evening for outdoor film-going. The Meridian Library District sponsored the opening event, touting the library's own summer-long theme of superheroes, with one librarian, appropriately dressed as a superhero, driving a bookmobile. Officials said it was the first time the library had used the Meridian movie night to kick off its own summer reading initiative.
The film didn't begin until nearly 10 p.m., hours after families had staked their claim for prime viewing territory in the park, but the bookmobile and two bounce-houses kept kids occupied before the feature attraction began.
"It's just a fun atmosphere," said a father, taking in the scene. "We enjoy people watching."
Settlers Park has hosted movie nights since 2007, and city officials said as many as 2,500 people come out for the weekly event.
"The goal is to create a connection in families. There are all kinds of things kids are doing in the way of [personal] screen time at home. Even if you're in the same house as your family you may not be connected with them," said Colin Moss, recreation coordinator for the Meridian Parks and Recreation Department and a co-founder of Movie Night.
Although never completely quiet, there was a noticeable lull in the chatter as the film began, and even though Tangled wasn't completely untangled until close to midnight, many of the families stayed to finish the movie.
Meanwhile, the city of Boise is gearing up for its own aptly named Movies under the Stars, beginning Saturday, June 20. This year, Boise officials said they're trying something new: Bringing some of the films to smaller, neighborhood parks. Thing get under way June 20 at Julia Davis Park but for the following six weeks, screenings will also be held at Veterans Memorial, Jullion, Borah and Hobble Creek parks.
"This is our first year advertising for these smaller locations, so we'll see how it goes," said Clay Lee, recreation coordinator with the Boise Park and Recreation Department. "We're expecting a lot more traffic at the smaller parks."
With the help of community partners like such as Drug Free Idaho, Huntington Learning Center and the Boise Schools Education Foundation, those expectations will likely be met.
"[The Boise School District] has been a huge help since we took over Movies Under the Stars. It's really come full circle since the district started this event in 2009," said Lee.
The films for Movies Under the Stars, which will include How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 20), Frozen, Annie and Goonies, were chosen through a survey completed by 1,240 residents. The Boise series runs each Saturday through Sept. 4. Movies begin at dusk, but pre-film activities, coordinated by the Boise Parks and Recreation Mobile Recreation Van program, will include capture the flag, dodgeball and other field games start at 7 p.m.