“There’s something about watching a film and being outside,” says Movies in the Park coordinator, Nicole Crozier, “just the idea of a movie under the stars.” What’s more romantic, more refreshing, or more fun?
When Crozier and her husband went on a trip to New York City and saw that HBO put on movies in Bryant Park they said, “Let’s bring this back home.” As a previous member of the fundraising committee for the Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club (TKBGC), she thought it would be a great fundraiser: “The plan was for it to be free so we approach[ed] businesses, large and small to come on board as event sponsor[s].”
Lesley Hawley, Administration and Special Projects Coordinator of the TKBGC, works with Crozier to organize free movie screenings in Riverdale Park East in the summer. Each movie night is directed at a charity, the majority going to the TKBGC, but last summer they expanded to include Art City in St James Town.
What’s better than a free movie? “All you need is a blanket,” says Hawley, “[you] can bring everybody. My friend brought her kid and she passed out on a pillow.”
Crozier promises all the movies are PG but not specifically for children, though they are planning a children’s movie night this summer. So far it’s been movies that Crozier and her husband really like. “They’re also not the typical ones you’ll see everyday,” says Hawley.
There are also concessions sold on site and at the Rooster Coffeehouse just across the street. In the past Rooster has helped them advertise, donated money to the event, and “even let [them] plug in [their] popcorn machine!” Other sponsors include Moksha Yoga and The Auld Spot Pub, part-owned by Crozier’s husband, Nathan Hynes: “They’ve all been very helpful getting it together.”
Everyone in the community is welcome to attend; Crozier and Hawley and chose Riverdale Park East for that exact reason. “It’s free movies that are accessible to surrounding communities of [the park]. We just thought the location was really cool, physically and because it bridges communities. You can walk across the bridge from Cabbagetown and Regent Park into Riverdale, which is a different kind of neighbourhood all together.”
It is easily accessible by Toronto transit, has parking on the street, and attendees have been known to make a day of it bringing picnics and organizing baseball games beforehand. They also make calls to the local police for security purposes and are sure to be done by 11pm so as not to disrupt the neighbours.
Crozier and Hawley also promise that no fundraising happens at the event: “There is no hat being passed around, there is no request for money,” explains Crozier. “I think supporting charities and non-profits is a very personal decision so you have to do what makes you feel good and what you think is right. I look at Movies in the Park not as much as a fundraiser but as more of a free community event.” Often, people who have questions make donations after the movie.
With their third summer approaching, they hope to meet new sponsors who are willing to participate so they can add more charities to their list: “We’re attempting to increase the number of screenings [this summer]; it would be amazing to have the resources to put on a film every weekend in the summer,” says Crozier. The numbers have still been pretty impressive with up to 300 people attending and raising $3,000 for TKBGC and $10,000 for Art City.
And if you’re not interested in the charity aspect, how could you resist a night like this? “The sun sets right behind the movie screen. The city skyline comes up as it gets dark so you have the sun sinking, the moon rising, the city glittering and the movie,” says Crozier.