Houston-area parks turn to movies to bring families together

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Poppy and Branch (voiced by Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake) in the movie “Trolls World Tour,” screening March 26 at Levy Park

Photo: Dreamworks Animation, HO / TNS

Outdoor movies allow kids to be boisterous and parents to feel safely distanced.

Area parks are answering the call, with al fresco film series that position the big screen under the stars.

For the March 26 free viewing of “Trolls World Tour” at Levy Park, attendees can settle in one of the brightly-colored squares on the lawn, a permanent pandemic-era feature that allows for social distancing at park events.

Families can also take advantage of the children’s park, which recently reopened after a year-long closure due to health concerns.

Because the “Trolls” movie was released digitally when theaters were shuttered due to the lockdown, the outdoor screening offers a new way to experience the film, says park director Stephanie Kiouses.

Upcoming movies include “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” on April 30 and “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” on May 28.

Families can make use of the park’s furniture or bring picnic blankets.

“When the kids get a little antsy,” Kiouses says, they can head to the park’s art cart or games cart.

The park’s three eateries, Love Shack, Woodshed and Side Dough, are open during movie nights. Adult beverages are on offer.

Barbecue joint Woodshed recently expanded the size of its patio, which offers a primo view of the screen.

“It’s nice to be out in the green space, you get the mental health benefit of breathing the air and being around your neighbors and being able to do that in a socially-distanced manner,” Kiouses says.

More information: levyparkhouston.org

After the success of a drive-up movie series the city of Pearland hosted in response to the health crisis, the parks department is rolling out a free Sunset Cinema series in April.

This time, movie-goers will take in the action from blankets and lawn chairs at Independence Park rather than from their vehicles, but the event offers the same “fun and nostalgic feeling,” says special events coordinator Mychal Mitchell.

The public has “responded tremendously” to the outdoor opportunity, he says. “This is something that is new and unique to our area.”

Via Facebook, the community can vote to choose from movies including “Tom & Jerry,” Disney’s 2019 “Aladdin” and “Jumanji: The Next Level.”

For the weekly viewing on a 30-foot inflatable screen, organizers will use stakes to mark plots that are 10 feet from the next plot.

Attendees aren’t required to follow the distancing mandates, Mitchell says, but the stakes provide “visual identifiers” for those who want to keep a distance from others.

The screen is on an elevated area near the park’s hill, a draw for kids who roll down it again and again, says Mitchell.

Families can make use of the park’s recently-renovated playscape and basketball pavilion, and food trucks will be on hand.

“Mom and dad can hang out and watch the little ones run around and get their energy out,” Mitchell says of ample open green space.

More information: facebook.com/pearlandparks

Crowdsourcing is also being used to select drive-in features at the Sugar Land Movie Series at Crown Festival Park, which has returned for spring.

An advance per-vehicle $20 ticket is required.

After Sugar Land’s inaugural drive-in series during the holiday season, organizers “brought it back by popular demand,”says Melissa Raju, tourism and marketing manager.

“They like the novelty of watching a movie from their cars and getting out of the house and just being outside,” she says.

Families can park their car backwards and open the hatch, settle into the bed of a pickup truck, or bring lawn chairs. A concession stand offers candy, soda and popcorn.

This weekend’s features are “Slumdog Millionaire” and the popular Indian film “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.”

Next weekend, the public will vote between “Dirty Dancing” and “Grease” to play April 2. “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic Park” are the options for April 3.

“We’re calling it a people’s choice,” Raju says of the throwback titles that adults will want to re-watch with their kids.

The series doubles as an opportunity to connect consumers with local restaurants that have been impacted by the pandemic, she says. Food trucks rotate, with a special emphasis on Sugar Land’s dessert proprietors.

To accommodate an increased number of vehicles for the socially-distanced series, the movies are now projected onto three separate screens instead of one.

“There’s been a huge demand for making this a permanent thing,” Raju says.

More information: sugarlandmovieseries.com




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