When Tom Boss started showing movies 19 years ago at the old Café Nouveau in San Anselmo, he couldn't have imagined the crowds that would gather in parks around the Bay Area to watch 28 different screenings this summer.
"They became so popular that we ran out of space," said Boss of moving the screenings out of the now-defunct café and into Creek Park.
The first few years Boss and a friend showed just five movies on their own projectors. As the crowds grew, so did the venue. The town worked with Boss to stage the movies in Creek Park. Creek Park remains one of the most popular and well-used of the various locations that Film Night in the Park has expanded to.
"More and more communities came to us," said Boss, and wanted help staging their own film nights. Film Night in the Park has now expanded to Fairfax, San Geronimo, Mill Valley, and large venues like Dolores Park and Union Square in San Francisco.
"It's just so nostalgic and old-fashioned," said Nancy Wilson of Woodacre at the Creek Park showing of The Blob. Wilson tries to take her son and daughter to a few of the movies around the area every summer. Their favorite was a trip to Ghirardelli Square to watch Escape from Alcatraz after the family watched other Alcatraz movies and visited the infamous island all on the same day.
"They show a lot of good movies," said Nate, Wilson's son, who was hoping to convince his mom to take him to see Jaws on July 31.
The schedule for 2010 is jam-packed with top quality movies, including old classics like Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious and current blockbusters like Twilight and Avatar (which may be shown in 3-D, said Boss).
Every year, a committee gathers to suggest movies and create a big list of possibilities, which slowly gets narrowed down. The group tries to pick some less well-known but high-quality movies, like The World's Fastest Indian, in addition to larger shows like the Mama Mia Sing-a-Long.
Although there is a suggested donation of $6 for adults and $3 for children and seniors, all are welcome. The programs are funded through sponsorships and donations and at the end of the year after all those movies and work, "we usually end up with just about $500 in our pockets," said Boss.
Although the organization has grown since its start, Boss still ends up at most movies and still runs the projector before he sits back to enjoy the show.
And all the hard work is paying off, drawing new people to the movies all the time.
"We've been meaning to come. It seems like a fun community thing to do," said Katie McNicholas, who – with her husband Mike – finally made it to watch The Blob on July 23 after intending to go for over a decade. When the pair first moved to San Rafael 13 years ago, they saw that Film Night in the Park was held regularly and wanted to go, but life just kept getting in the way.
Now, they can join the thousands of people who have trickled in and out of the parks over the years to watch all kinds of movies in a new way during the summer.
"We thought it'd just be a fun summer thing to do," said Mike.
A full schedule can be found at filmnight.org.
All showtimes listed here are at 8pm at Creek Park in San Anselmo:
July 31: Jaws
Aug. 13: The World's Fastest Indian
Aug. 14: Mamma-Mia Sing-a-long
Aug. 20: Notorious
Aug. 21: Coraline
Sept. 3: Sixteen Candles
Sept. 4: Up
Sept. 5: Avatar
Sept. 18: Special Screening!