Sonic Summer Movies gives families a chance to stretch out in the grass for an outdoor screening 

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There’s nothing quite like watching a movie with a crowd. See one in a multiplex and you might sit among a crowd of 200 if it sells out.

That’s nothing, said Myriad Botanical Gardens communications and marketing director Leslie Spears.

Each Sonic Summer Movies night event routinely brings in about 2,500 guests to the Great Lawn, 301 W. Reno Ave. Films screen 9 p.m. Wednesdays through July 26.

“I think for Frozen we actually had 3,000,” she said about the 2014 screening event.

Imagine a sea of children and parents singing “Let It Go” in unison and you’ll have some idea of the event’s draw.

“We showed The Wizard of Oz a few years ago and guests did sing along,” said public events director Ashley Elkins. “Normally when we’ve shown a musical, the audience does sing along.”

As the summer progresses, the selections skew a bit more toward adults without moving beyond family-friendly fare.

“We try to give a good balance of family-friendly and some that are a little more adult,” Elkins said. “We also try to pay attention to what’s been popular at the box office the previous year.”

The Wednesday, June 28 event features 1984 classic The Karate Kid with visiting food trucks The Healthy Hippo, Blue Donkey Cafe, Cutie Pies Concession and Katiebug’s Shaved Ice and Hot Chocolate parked on Hudson Avenue.

Subsequent Sonic Summer Movies events are Star Trek Beyond July 5, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them July 12, Moonrise Kingdom July 19 and 42: The True Story of an American Legend Jackie Robinson July 26.

Growing pains

With popularity can come challenges, though.

“We had several complaints that guests with lawn chairs were sitting in front of guests with blankets. Basically, lawn chairs were blocking others’ view of the movie,” Elkins said. “We rope off the middle of the lawn and put out signage that marks the blanket side versus the lawn-chair side.”

To make sure everyone can see and hear the films, the organizers use local company Phillips Pro Audio to install the screen and audio equipment.

“I’m not sure of the exact dimensions, but it takes up the entire bandshell,” she said. “They don’t set up speakers around the lawn because the equipment they have is powerful enough to reach the back of the lawn without need for additional speakers. This is also the company that runs all the Arts Council’s Twilight Concert Series, so they are well-versed in audio-visual technology.”

Arrive early

Though movies begin at 9 p.m., Elkins said guests often arrive as early as 6 p.m. to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic before the sun sets.

Guests who happen to get hungry but didn’t pack a dinner can purchase meals and snacks from a roster of food trucks.

Pitchfork in the Park also remains open in Myriad Botanical Gardens’ east plaza, selling Popsicles, ice cream and a variety of savory sandwiches. Food trucks line up on Hudson Avenue.


Print headline: Starry cinema, The Sonic Summer Movies series at Myriad Botanical Gardens promises family-friendly films under the sky. 

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