Courthouse Square in Scranton reinvents itself on Thursday nights in the summer – chocolate-covered popcorn, beach chairs, blankets, and take-out from various local restaurants surrounding the courthouse cover the grass in front of a 46 x 44-foot movie screen. Drive-In Downtown is a project courtesy of the nonprofit organization Scranton Tomorrow, which prides itself on providing the community with education, information, and activities, and maintaining a clean and green city.
Scranton Tomorrow Executive Director Leslie Collins is pleased to bring Drive-In Downtown back to the courthouse this summer, with the possibility of as many as five movies set to play from June through the end of July.
“We had over 400 people last year at our kick-off movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Collins said.
Last year’s unpredictable weather patterns, such as the hurricane and major flooding, prevented all of the scheduled movies from showing. This year, Scranton Tomorrow has created rain dates for any event the weather might cause to be cancelled, and it will be starting earlier than last year.
Grease was shown in late September 2011 due to last year’s weather and, in turn, a smaller crowd attended the event. A re-showing of the musical is scheduled to play sometime in June.
Scranton Tomorrow is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, from its beginnings as a grassroots community organization focusing on community development projects.
“Over the last few years we’ve moved into economic development,” Collins explained. “We have been designated as Main Street manager for downtown Scranton and are charged with activities that promote economic development for the downtown business sector.”
A five-point committee structure makes up Scranton Tomorrow, which involves safe, clean, and green organizational promotions, economic restructuring, and design committees.
The idea behind Drive-In Downtown came from focus groups of various downtown employees, presenting them with questions such as, “How often do you eat lunch in the downtown?”, “At the end of the work day, how often do you go shopping?”, “What nights would you like to see activities in the downtown?”, and, “What kind of activities would you be interested in?.”
“We asked all the groups the same questions and there were pretty consistent answers,” Collins noted. “They were looking for activities that were no- or low-cost because of the economy. Activities they could take their entire family to and be able to afford were very high on the list.”
Several years ago, Scranton Tomorrow showcased movies at Nay Aug Park, and the idea of presenting movies on a larger scale seemed appropriate after gathering the answers from the focus groups.
The movies are free and family friendly. Some downtown restaurants surrounding the courthouse have discounted meals on Thursday Drive-In nights, as well as take-out available to movie goers.
A contact in Bethlehem, 80 miles south of Scranton, and also another smaller city that provides outdoor movies in the summer months have provided the equipment for the movies.
“Rather than compete on a Friday night when the downtown is already booming, we would prefer to make it an additional night for people to come downtown,” Collins said. “We’re making Thursday night a destination night.”
The Economic Restructuring Committee chooses the movies based on family friendliness and an appeal to multiple generations. Some possible movies for this summer include Rudy, Star Wars, Rocky, and a yet-unnamed animated children’s film.
The following dates are subject to change due to the weather: June 21st, June 28th, July 19th, and July 26th. A rain date is scheduled for July 12th.
The movies begin playing between 8:30 and 9 p.m. or around sunset. Street vendors such as Bellafaccia’s Chocolates participate and offer food, candy, and treats to the movie goers.
Participating restaurants include Pizza by Pappas, Carl Von Luger, Electric City Pizza, and Northern Light Espresso Bar.
“We had people calling us from last year asking us if we’ll be doing it again this year,” Collins said. “It’s really why we are looking for sponsorship this year because there is such a huge demand. Another important part of it is, it’s free and it’s family. It was great to see the demographic that was out there for Ferris Bueller. We had families with infants and toddlers, for date night and girl’s night out, and an older population. It was really neat to see.”
For more information about Scranton Tomorrow, visit www.scrantontomorrow.com or find it on Facebook®.