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East Aurora Wesleyan Church Begins Movies in the Park Season

When East Aurora Wesleyan Church begins its newest Movies in the Park season on Fri., July 2, it will continue to offer visitors a chance to gather for free, family-friendly films. What those visitors might notice though is that the movies look bigger this year.

The Rev. Richard Nightingale, pastor at East Aurora Wesleyan Church, told the Advertiser that the donation by Hitachi of a high-powered projector, along with the purchase of a large new inflatable screen, will allow the church to offer a better viewing experience and show more recent films.

Nightingale said that the movie series, now entering its ninth year, started as a way for the church to “reach out to the community, giving back a little bit.” The films are shown Friday nights just after sunset, with movies starting around 9 p.m. at the beginning of July, but beginning earlier as the season nears its end. The screen is set up at the Rotary Bandstand portion of the Roycroft Pavilion at Hamlin Park. Last year’s movies drew an average of 200 to 250 people a night.

“We did this because we saw an opportunity to encourage family values,” explained Nightingale. “The families that come out with their kids and spread their blankets and their lawn chairs… it’s just great to see the families having fun together.”

When the program began, East Aurora Wesleyan Church was solely responsible for sponsoring the series, but in recent years businesses have helped to underwrite expenses. In 2009, about 35 businesses, most local, sponsored films or contributed door prizes.

The program is largely made up of feature-length animated movies. Refreshments and popcorn are available at shows, with door prizes given out each week.

Said Nightingale, “We’ve found a little niche there, we think, with the animation. It has broad appeal to both the children and adults. The kids can enjoy the cartoon characters, and the adults can enjoy the storyline… A high percentage of the people who come are younger parents with school-aged kids, although we see teens and we see older adults.”

With some new technology, the church is hoping visitors can enjoy the movies even more. The church’s new screen has a 16-foot by nine-foot projection surface, and inflates in about 20 seconds (at 13 feet tall, the inflatable structure is a tight fit inside the bandstand). The high-powered projector from Hitachi will also improve picture quality and will work with newer films.

“The exciting thing this year, in going to widescreen format, is that we’re going to be able to show some of the latest animated movies that are out there,” Nightingale stated. The licensing agreement for the series restricts the manner in which individual films can be promoted, so the Church couldn’t share a list of this summer’s offerings with the Advertiser, but eight of the nine movies planned for this year haven’t been shown in the series before, and most have come out within the last few years.

Though the technology and the films might change, the goal of Movies in the Park remains the same. “Any way that we can encourage families and strengthen the families, we think it’s a good thing,” said Nightingale.

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