June 20--For parents with young children, the two best words might be free entertainment.
Or maybe they're "We'll baby-sit."
Still, a night out with the kids that doesn't cost a dime -- what's not to like?
Communities in central Ohio help fill the evenings for prudent parents with free movie series in parks and other public areas.
"I've got three little ones," said Ed Merritt, parks and recreation superintendent for Grove City, which will host a "Fryer Flicks on the Hill" movie series. "To take them all to the movies, that's just crazy (financially)."
Beth McCollam, public information and marketing coordinator for the Gahanna Department of Parks and Recreation, said that its "Cinema Under the Stars" series offered only a few movies last year, but "the response was overwhelming. People loved it." At the heart of most of the series are G- or PG-rated movies suitable for family viewing.
"It's not uncommon to see three generations coming together," said Tina Dillman, program coordinator for the Groveport Cultural Arts Department, which conducts an annual "Summer Movies in the Park" program.
A few films are more adult-oriented than others. For example, the Wexner Center's drive-in movie series will screen The Graduate, while the Easton Town Center series will feature several PG-13 movies, including Les Miserables and The Notebook. As with trips to the theater, parents should exercise judgment when choosing a screening.
The biggest threat to outdoor movies is rain.
"It's so weather-dependent," Merritt said. "We could have the best movie in the world, but if there's a threat of rain," attendance plummets.
Organizers also try to coordinate pre-show activities with a movie's theme, Dillman said. For the June 29 screening of the G-rated dinosaur adventure The Land Before Time, Children can try their hands at becoming junior paleontologists by making art with dinosaur stamps and crayon rubs and hunting for "dinosaur eggs" that Dillman has created.
One of Grove City's pre-movie attractions is a nearby playground, where young viewers can burn off energy.
And some parents can watch the movie in peace when youngsters are finished playing.
"They're asleep halfway through the movie," Merritt said with a laugh.
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