It’s year 13 for the Downtown Surrey BIA-hosted Movies Under the Stars events, kicking off this weekend and running every Saturday in August.
But it’s year 10 since the film screenings moved to Holland Park, where the event has attracted more than 5,000 people in a single night – when the weather co-operates, that is.
“Last year, with the forest fires, the air was kind of smokey so I think that caused a few of the weeks to not be as busy,” said Bonnie Burnside of the Downtown Surrey BIA.
“Now, if the weather’s really, really hot, people don’t want to come out or come at the last minute. Or if it looks like it’s going to rain people don’t come out.”
Movie selection is also key when it comes to drawing big crowds.
“Sometimes you just never know. One year we did Rio 2, we thought, ‘That’s not going to be really popular.’ It got fairly good ratings and we thought it would be a good movie for kids, all of those feel good things, but we didn’t really think that it would be a super draw. And that night, it just shocked us, we had 3,000 people out.
“Then of course when we showed Frozen it went up to over 5,000 people out. They just didn’t quit coming. It was really a great feeling.
“So there’s a lot of things that go into whether it’s busy or not, but at this point, most of our movies we see between 1,000 and 3,500 come out,” she added.
This year, the month-long series kicks off with Ferdinand on Aug. 4, followed by Coco on Aug. 11, Paddington 2 on Aug. 18 and Wonder to end the series on Aug. 25.
So, what started as a small event in 2005 that drew a modest 500 people has grown to one that regularly draw thousands.
And, as Burnside explains, it’s “really become a community event.”
“We set up so we’re ready to go until 5 o’clock but the movie can’t start until it gets dark enough. We have entertainers come out and perform, we have different kinds of activities like face painting and crafts and storytelling and all kinds of things.”
Event sponsors are also known to hand out treats.
“Last year, Concord Pacific was one of our sponsors and they had cups for the kids last year, with little candies inside of them,” she recalled.
“Prospera is our presenting sponsor, and has been since 2009, and they come out every year and give out free popcorn to the people. There’s a great big line for th popcorn,” she laughed.
The North Surrey Lions Club also comes out to sell hot dogs and chips.
“And we have other people that are just part of the event. I’ve had people come out and say, ‘We never thought it would be like this.’
“There’s grandmothers there with their grandchildren. New parents there with their babies. Three generations come out,” Burnside said.
“I’m not going to say everything is person, there’s always somebody who complains, say about someone sitting in front of them with a chair.
“So bring a chair if you want,” she chuckled. “Or a blanket.”
The crowds have grown since the event’s small beginning in 2005, but so has the screen.
“It’s huge,” said Burnside. “It’s three stories high. You can sit fairly far back and still see.”
In 2005, the screen set up was “quite the production,” with the BIA contracting a special events company to come out and build one on the spot, on scafolding.
“It took a while to set it up,” she said. “But now we work with Fresh Air Cinema. They come in and blow up the screen.”
Check downtownsurreybia.com for more details closer to event dates, or just head down to Holland Park at 5 p.m., or later, on Saturdays in August.
And get there early — the park fills up fast.