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Free outdoor movies return to Grand Rapids this summer

Sunset Cinema & Movies in the Park return to bring free cinema to the community, with a fresh line-up of classics and hits.
Sunset Cinema Studio Park plaza

Sunset Cinema Studio Park plaza /Justin Mills

A rainy night for "Jurassic Park" (1993)

A rainy night for "Jurassic Park" (1993) /Naomi Sahnow

John Collins Park on Reeds Lake

John Collins Park on Reeds Lake /Justin Mills

Warm weather is back in Grand Rapids which means a summer of free outdoor cinema showings have commenced throughout the community.

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI)  and Celebration Cinema’s Studio Park have once again combined efforts to bring back the free outdoor Sunset Cinema series to the Studio Park Piazza on Saturday nights this summer. 

The series returned Saturday night with an apt, Isla Nublar worthy, rainy showing of “Jurassic Park” (1993). Despite the heavy rain for the first third of the film, Studio Park plaza still held a commendable sized crowd of “Jurassic Park” loyalists. 

The series will run for the rest of the summer through June and July, with a brief pause in August, ending on September 14th.

With classics such as “Toy Story” (1995) & “Back to the Future” (1985) and new hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022) & “Barbie” (2023), Sunset Cinema will feature eight films that were selected by an online public vote that received almost 3,000 responses. 

The lineup

June 15 – 10 Things I Hate About You

June 22 – Toy Story (1995)

June 29 – Barbie (2023)

July 6 – Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

August 31 – Back To The Future (1985)

September 7 – Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

September 14 – Clueless (1995)

All movies start at 8 p.m.

“We’re really excited to be partnering with Celebration Cinema again to bring a free movie series back Downtown,” said Kim Van Driel, Director of Public Space Management at DGRI. “Studio Park has become such a wonderful public space and we can’t wait to see it full of community members taking in a movie and enjoying our beautiful Downtown neighborhood.”

The Studio Park Piazza, located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, has been the location for Sunset Cinema since its inception in 2020. Celebration Cinema opened its 9-screen Studio Park location in the fall of 2019 after months of construction but was left to shutter doors in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sunset Cinema was launched in the summer of 2020 on the Piazza as an effort to provide the community with an opportunity to see films on the big screen with an audience while abiding by social distancing requirements. 

“We love to bring people together, and summer brings new opportunities,” said Emily Loeks, Director of Community Affairs at Celebration Cinema. “The outdoor piazza at Studio Park is a great spot to gather, and from which to explore the city.”

The seating area is first come, first serve, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own “low-profile chairs” to provide a good view for all in attendance. 

Outside snacks are allowed during screenings, but food and drink are available to purchase at local businesses within Studio Park, including the indoor cinema’s concessions.

Movies in the Park in East Grand Rapids

The East Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department is set to bring back “Movies in the Park” on Friday nights this summer for its 17th year in operation on the shores of Reeds Lake in John Collins Park. 

The free family event has served as a community-focused summer staple for the city since 2007.

“The intent of offering these movie events each summer is to help advance our mission of creating community in East Grand Rapids, and specifically offering opportunities for our entire community to come together to meet each other, recreate with their families, neighbors, and friends, and to enjoy the beautiful outdoor spaces in East Grand Rapids,” said Derek Melville, Parks and Recreation Director for East Grand Rapids. 

The lineup:

June 14 - Shazam (2019)

June 28 - Barbie (2023)

July 12 - Elemental (2023)

August 2 - Wonka (2023)

The films are projected onto a large inflatable screen in the park, with Reeds Lake as a backdrop. 

Attendees are encouraged to show up early for a good viewing spot and should bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. Outside food and drink are allowed during shows, but barbecues and grilling are not allowed in John Collins Park. Dogs are permitted to attend shows but must be on a leash six feet or shorter. 

Showtimes that are canceled due to inclement weather will not be rescheduled.

In addition to the East Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department, this year’s “Movies in the Park” series is presented by local sponsors: The Brouwers Agency, Auto-Owners Insurance, Floor and Decor and Friends of the EGR Library.

The 2024 lineup is made up of recent box office hits, with the intention of drawing a family-friendly crowd.

“The Parks and Recreation team is responsible for selecting the films," Melville stated. "As an office team, we tend to look at new movies, movies that have been popular recently, and work with our sponsors and staff to decide what movies we think the community would be most interested in seeing.“

"Movies in the Park" will begin June 14 and will host its final showing on August 2. Films begin at dusk. 

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