It will cost $1,300 to make you cry in public when the Astoria Parks and Recreation Department projects the movie “Coco” on an inflatable silver screen in August.
The showing of “Coco” — an animated tearjerker about a young boy in rural Mexico with dreams of becoming a musician — comes courtesy of Recology Western Oregon. Arbor Care, a local tree service company, is sponsoring “A Wrinkle in Time” earlier in the month. Clatsop Power Equipment, Gimre’s Shoe Store, Aquafina and the Mini Mart have also chipped in for a third movie.
The private sponsorships are the only way the free summer movie program at Fred Lindstrom Memorial Park is possible right now.
Two years ago, the Parks and Recreation Department cut all free family and community events due to budget constraints — a situation that also led to other cuts, shifts and changes as the department struggled to match the true costs of operations with revenue.
The summer movie showings at Fred Lindstrom Park, as well as events like the Easter egg hunt or the popular Monster Bash, fell under the umbrella of free family and community events. “And that entire category was eliminated,” said Angela Cosby, parks and recreation director.
To show one movie cost the city $1,300 in movie rights fees, equipment and staff time. Though a single movie might draw 200 to 400 people, there was no way for the department to recoup costs and still keep the showing free.
Initially, there wasn’t a huge community outcry when the free events were cut, Cosby said. The events are a huge draw for families with young children — people who have many priorities other than keeping up with the park’s budget news, she said. Many of them didn’t realize the particular event they planned to attend had been hit by the budget ax until the usual time for the event rolled around without any of the usual posters, notifications or community chatter.
But sponsors have since stepped up. This year, local service organizations banded together to host the Easter egg hunt at Tapiola Park. Last summer, sponsors provided the funds to show two movies at Fred Lindstrom Park. This year, the department gained three sponsors for the program.
Through all the budget upheavals, another movies-in-the-park program has continued unchanged: “Parks After Dark” at McClure Park. The Astoria Parks Recreation and Community Foundation charges attendees $5 per ticket and shows throwback adult or teen-oriented films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Back to the Future.”
The McClure Park showings are sponsored this summer by the Astoria Co-op Grocery, Astoria Downtown Historic District Association and the Liberty Theatre, with beer for sale donated by Fort George Brewery and pizza donated by Baked Alaska.
Each showing at McClure Park may draw 50 to 75 people. It costs around $500 to put on, said Tammy Loughran, treasurer for the foundation.
After technical difficulties and poor sound quality during a showing of “Indiana Jones” last week, the foundation plans to hold a free showing of the movie in the next week or two, Cosby said.
With the different focuses, both movie programs are important to the Parks and Recreation Department’s mission. McClure, off Eighth Street, and Fred Lindstrom, at the top of the hill on Niagara Avenue near the Peter Pan Market, are neighborhood parks. The movie nights are a way to get people into the parks and interacting with their community, organizers say.