Town of Smyrna’s Movie Night gaining a following

SMYRNA — There’s probably no bloodthirsty, famous, toothy, oversized shark lurking in Lake Como … right?

The Town of Smyrna is promoting its free movie night Tuesday at dusk with a tongue-in-cheek approach that maybe raises some doubts:
“No Swimming in Lake Como, Unless you DARE Aug 21st,” begins the news and announcements item listed online at smyrna.delaware.gov.
“Movie Night at the Lake, Playing JAWS.”

The 1970s-style terrifying, suspenseful thriller is the latest theatrical installment in what officials hope will grow into a well-attended series drawing the community together. The town has also reached out to nearby Clayton and Cheswold residents to join the fun.

“We’re trying to bring in more people to enjoy the benefits of living here in Smyrna and coming to visit too,” said series organizer James Markow, a town billing and IT manager.

In case anyone is brave enough to enter Lake Como on “Jaws” night, the town will provide glow sticks for around the neck and Tiki torches to help illuminate the area. Free popcorn will be available and food trucks will be present for other treats.

Mr. Markow, for one, won’t venture anywhere near the water Tuesday, guaranteed.

“ ‘Jaws’ still scares me as much now as it did the first time I watched it,” he said.

The town’s July 19 movie series debut got off to an inauspicious start with the showing of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” at George C. Wright Jr. Municipal Park at 325 N. Main St. While the movie was well received by the 35 to 40 attendees, many folks left because “the bugs were bad.”

The town made sure to fog the area when “Black Panther” played for an audience of 40 to 50 on Aug. 10, and Mr. Markow said, “the bugs were not as bad.”

The parents surveyed afterward gave a thumbs-up to the experience.

“They said it was great, an easy way to use the playground equipment, watch a movie, go home and get them to bed,” Mr. Markow said. “I was like ‘Exactly!’ ”

Positive reviews

Mr. Markow, Vice Mayor Peter M. Retzlaff and Town Manager Gary Stulir hatched the movie series idea months ago after positive public reviews following a couple shows in 2017 and hope to continue it throughout the year as weather allows. The vice mayor received credit for billing “Jaws” as a must-have showing.

Other than that, Mr. Markow has turned to the younger generation to choose the shows. The emphasis is on attracting families to the movies.

“I’m not a movie buff buy my kids enjoy it and if they do I know others will,” Mr. Markow said.

Tentatively, “Grease” is scheduled for the big screen at Wright Park on Oct. 18, The movie, released 40 years ago, will coincide with Smyrna High’s homecoming parade and football game, along with the Historic Home Tour.

“Traditionally, the Smyrna High School alumni return for homecoming activities so we felt that it may give them another activity to attend when they come back to visit,” Mr. Stulir said. “The movies are a nice complement to the Smyrna Concert Series and annual Smyrna at Night events.”

The town plans to host at least two more movies in 2018, but the titles and dates are to be determined. Possible movies include both of “The Incredibles” flicks and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

“As we finalize the other movies, we will release the date and movie selection on our website, social media and app,” Mr. Stuliir said.

When it gets colder, Mr. Markow said, “we’ll serve hot chocolate.”

Mr. Retzlaff described the venture as “a great opportunity to give more back to the community. In my three years as vice mayor, I have had the opportunity to work with a great group of individuals on council, as well as the town staff, … and I feel it has always been a priority of council and town staff to give back to the community.

“As long as it continues to be successful and fiscally sound, I hope the movie nights in Smyrna continue in the future with bigger and better events.”

According to officials, each movie costs $300 to show due to a licensing fee. An 11 foot by 18 foot screen and small projector cost just under $400. The town used the public address system it already had to project the sound. The system was tested late last week to make sure there were no big screen glitches Tuesday.

Mr. Markow said he built a frame for the screen and an apparatus to attach it to the dock. Afterward, his 12-year-old daughter helps him take it down.

According to Vice Mayor Retzlaff, “Movie nights in Smyrna are a collaborative effort of town council, town management, and staff.

“The movie nights actually started last fall on a limited basis with some success, so we collectively decided to give it another chance this year on a full scale basis – based upon the positive reaction we, the town, were getting from the success of the Summer Concert Series we launched this year.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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