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Get outside to see Movies in the Park

Today's kids can watch movies on their computers, tablets or smartphones, but there is really something special about relaxing on a blanket outdoors under the stars and experiencing a film on a giant, 30-by-60-foot screen. That opportunity comes up twice a year in a dozen New Orleans playgrounds when NORDC launches its Movies in the Park series.

Coordinated by volunteers and sponsored by neighborhood groups and booster clubs, the Friday and Saturday night events held in the spring and fall are free and open to all. NolaFit often leads a pre-show dance class or hula-hoop session to get the party started while waiting for the sky to darken. Most events draw 100-300 moviegoers with many large groups of children accompanied by one adult, although there is plenty of room to expand.

Sponsoring groups choose family-friendly movies from NORDC's collection of animated, adventure, action, classic, comedy, dance and inspirational titles. This season, the first movie, Sing, will be shown at Stallings Recreation Center at 4300 St. Claude Ave. in the Bywater.

"Movies in the Park has become an opportunity to get to know our neighbors and for children to experience watching a movie in an open area," says Ernest Johnson, a Lafitte Greenway board member who grew up nearby. "Kids get to run around and be free." The park's booster club will also be selling refreshments to raise funds for sports programs. Lafitte Greenway is showing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Oct. 13 at Lemann Playground.

About 300 attended last fall's screening in Oliver Bush Park in the Lower 9th Ward. Many traveled from one park to the next to enjoy several of the films.

Michelle Pyne, executive director of Global Green, a community sponsor of the Lower 9 event, says: "We always encourage people to spend time outside. Being outdoors in a green space reduces stress." Global Green sets up an information table to educate children about how they can save resources by using less water and electricity. Other nonprofits and the New Orleans Public Library often provide leaflets and giveaways at the events.

This year's presentation at Oliver Bush will be Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. An intergalactic brass band from Krewe of Chewbacchus will play and Tekrema Center for Art and Culture will present a spaceage dance performance for pre-show entertainment.

Attendees are welcome to bring blankets and folding chairs, non-alcoholic beverages and bug spray.

Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult and pets are not allowed. Many of the locations offer fresh popcorn, snacks and beverages for sale. In the event of rain, movies are shown at an indoor rec center.

  • Sept. 8 - Sing at Stallings Recreation Ctr., 4300 St. Claude Ave.
  • Sept. 15 - Star Trek Beyond at Oliver Bush Park, 2500 Caffin St.
  • Sept. 22 - Power Rangers at Joe Brown Park, 5601 Read Blvd.
  • Sept. 29 - Pete's Dragon at Latter Library, 5120 St. Charles Ave.
  • Oct. 6 - Jaws at Norwood Thompson Park, 7200 Forshey St.
  • Oct. 7 - Moana at Stallings Gentilly Playground, 2700 Lapeyrouse St.
  • Oct. 13 - Tarzan at Digby Playground, 6701 Virgilian St.
  • Oct. 20 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at Lemann Park & Playground, 590-648 No. Claiborne Ave.
  • Oct. 27 - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at Milne Recreation Center, 5420 Franklin Ave.
  • Nov. 3 -  Secret Life of Pets at Evans Park, 5112 Lasalle St.
  • Nov. 10 - La La Land at Annunciation Park, 1500 Annunciation St.

Mary Rickard has been a regular contributor to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Orleans Advocate and Gambit, as well as newspapers and wire services in other locales. Feel free to send her comments or critiques at mary.rickard@sbcglobal.net.