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Coming Attractions / Cinema Highlights in WNY

Ten tips to make bringing kids to free outdoor movies a lot easier

Outdoor films are still a great family night out, as long as you’re prepared.


It’s hard to say when free outdoor movies became de rigueur in Western New York. Whenever and however it happened, it is undeniable that in 2019, virtually every night of the week features some manner of cinema under the stars. That’s a wonderful development, especially for families.


As a frequent attendee of said films, however, I must say that it’s clear many do not come prepared. Just like taking little ones to films at the cinema, bringing them to outdoor movies requires real planning and preparation.


1. Be aware of your surroundings.

Every outdoor over movie location has its positive and negatives, its idiosyncrasies and annoyances. So before attending, consider the logistics. Is this a site like Canalside, which fills up quickly? Then plan to arrive early. Do you feel a need to be close to the screen? All the more reason to plan an early arrival. There is no one-size-fits-all approach here, so trial and error might be necessary. But the general advice would be to expect a large crowd, and a need to find a perfect seating spot. Oh, and also figure out the bathroom situation upon arrival. Believe me, this knowledge will prove helpful.


2. Arriving early? Bring things to do.

Let’s say you take the advice from tip No.1, and get to the screening early. Very wise. However, your kids might get bored before the movie even starts. So bring iPads, Kindles, games, toys, food — whatever you think may help the wait time.


3. Sit near other families.

Any couples without kids present? Maybe don’t sit near them. There is a good chance they are a young couple who will find your presence annoying. (And hey, perhaps you’ll find their child-less presence annoying, as well.) This is another reason arriving well before the start of the movie is smart.


4. Consider sticking with moves you know the kids already love.

With kids and movies, rewatching is actually a benefit. There is a high likelihood that the selections making up this summer’s outdoor screening schedule have already been seen in your house. But kids know what they like. If they despised Paddington 2 — how dare they, but alright — then skip Paddington 2. If they loved Coco, and watch it at every opportunity, then go with that one.


5. Pack smartly.

It’s a pain to bring a giant bag or eight to an outdoor screening. But there is no question that you do want to bring jackets, hoodies, blankets, snacks, bug spray, wet wipes, and maybe pillows. The good news is you won’t be the only parent to look absurd.


6. See if any friends are going to be there.

On almost every occasion in which my family attends a free public event, we end up seeing someone we or the kids know. And that’s great, because gives us some adults to talk to, and the kids some friends to hang with. Reach out beforehand and see if anyone else is going or wants to meet there.


7. Bring some cash, just in case.

This one, friends, is a biggie. Some outdoor screenings are held at spots (like Canalside) with snack spots on site, and if not, there may be some food trucks or ice cream trucks waiting for you. Bring some cash to be safe. It will save you a lot of hassle and tears.


8. Check the schedules closely.

Never assume start times or rain locations. Check online before attending and, of course, keep an eye on weather reports. I won’t name any names, but there are a few local series that simply are not the same when moved indoors.


9. Ponder drive time and parking issues.

Heading to Canalside? Plan where you’re going to park beforehand, and watch to see if there are any other nearby events that evening to impact parking. Another idea is to park and then take the train in, which can add some time but save some money and walking complaints.


20. Do not, for even a second, worry about your own enjoyment.

If you wanted a good time, you wouldn’t be at any outdoor movie with your kiddos. Do what you can to make this an enjoyable night for the little ones, get home, and then relax. You made it through another outdoor movie night! Cheers.



July outdoor movie calendar


Green Acres Ice Cream Free Outdoor Family Movie Night and Kids Pajama Party

Green Acres Ice Cream, 4357 Broadway, Depew; 683-1849 or greenacresicecream.com

Free. Movies start at dusk.

July 10: Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet

July 17: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

July 24: The Grinch

July 31: Incredibles 2


Town of Amherst Youth and Recreation Department 2019 Summer Movie Series

South Long Park, Bassett Park, Willowridge School, Island Park; 631-7132 or amherstyouthandrec.org

Free. Check the program guide at amherstyouthandrec.org for rain sites.

July 12: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (South Long Park)

July 19: Ant-Man and the Wasp (Bassett Park)

July 26: Mary Poppins Returns (Willowridge School)


Transit Drive-In Retro Movie Tuesdays

Transit Drive-In, 6655 S. Transit Rd, Lockport; transitdrivein.com

Start times vary between 9-9:25 p.m. for the first film, and 11-11:45 p.m. for the second film

July 2: Top Gun, Independence Day

July 9: Superman, Wonder Woman

July 16: Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles

July 23: Better Off Dead, Say Anything

July 30: Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore


UB Student Association Summer Film Series

9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays at UB North Campus (outside the Student Union), Wednesdays at UB South Campus (outside Hayes Hall); sa.buffalo.edu/summerfilms

July 2, 3, 5: John Wick: Chapter 3

July 9, 10, 12: Dumbo

July 16, 17, 19: Shazam!

July 23, 24, 26: Detective Pikachu

July 30, 31: How to Train Your Dragon 3   


Movie Mondays on the Water!

Pierce Lawn at Canalside, 44 Prime St.; canalsidebuffalo.com

Free. Lawn chairs welcome; Adirondack chairs available for the first 100 guests. Movies start at 7 p.m.

July 1: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

July 8: ET The Extra Terrestrial

July 15: Mary Poppins Returns

July 22: The Grinch

July 29: Cool Runnings


More noteworthy screenings:

July 1, 2

Whisper of the Heart

Hayao Miyazaki wrote the script for this animated coming-of-age favorite about a schoolgirl’s life-changing adventure.

Dubbed version: 7 p.m. on July 1; subtitled version: 7 p.m. on July 2; at the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville)



July 2

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

Kirk Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck star in this film noir classic.

7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room

(880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)



July 6, 7, 9, 11

Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?

This documentary explores the life of the late E-Street Band saxophonist.

8 p.m. at the Screening Room

(880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)



July 8

Hamlet—NT Live 10th Anniversary

The original National Theatre broadcast starring Benedict Cumberbatch returns to cinemas for one night only.

7 p.m. at the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville)



July 10


Noir Essentials ends its latest season with Frank Borzage’s study of small-town guilt starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell, and Ethel Barrymore.

7:30 p.m. at the Dipson Eastern Hills Cinema, 4545 Transit Rd., Williamsville; dipsontheatres.com


July 12, 13, 19, 23

A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles’ first (and best) film is celebrating its fifty-fifth anniversary this year.

7:30 p.m. at the Screening Room

(880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)



July 14, 17

Easy Rider

Dennis Hopper’s counterculture classic starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with a return to theaters.

4 p.m. on July 14, 4 and 7 p.m. on July 17, at the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville)



July 14

The Rider

This tale of a young cowboy, formerly a rodeo circuit star, was one of 2018’s finest films.

4 p.m. at Parkdale Elementary School

(141 Girard Ave., East Aurora)



July 17

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Cultivate Cinema Circle co-presents Squeaky Wheel’s summer film series, “Three Storms for Summer Eves,” continuing with this 2019 Oscar-nominated documentary.

7 p.m. at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center

(617 Main St.)



July 18

White Material

The latest entry in Cultivate Cinema Circle’s “Post-Colonialisms: World Cinema and Human Consequence” series is this provocative drama directed by the great Claire Denis and starring Isabelle Huppert.

7 p.m. at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center

(341 Delaware Ave.)



July 18

Klimt & Schiele: Eros and Psyche

Broadcast in HD, this film explores Vienna Secession artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

7 p.m. at Fredonia Opera House

(9 Church St., Fredonia)



July 21

Bite Me

A one-night-only Buffalo premiere of this romantic comedy about a vampire and an IRS agent also features a post-movie Q-and-A.

7 p.m. at the Screening Room

(880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)



July 21, 24


The TCM Big Screen Series commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of Glory, the story of the first black regiment to fight for the Union Army in the Civil War. Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington star.

1 p.m. on July 21, 4 and 7 p.m. on July 24, at the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville)


7 p.m. on July 24 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre

(3500 Main St.)



July 25, 30

The Muppet Movie 40th Anniversary

The first Muppet movie returns to theaters for two days only.

12:30 and 7 p.m. on July 25 and 30 at the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville)



July 26


Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn star in Stanley Donen’s romantic thriller.

8:15 p.m. at the Screening Room

(880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)



July 26, 30

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché

Jodie Foster narrates this documentary about the first female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blaché,

6 p.m. on July 26, 7:30 p.m. on July 30 at the Screening Room

(880 Alberta Dr., Amherst)



July 28, 29, 31

Kiki’s Delivery Service: 30th Anniversary

Director Hayao Miyazaki’s animated classic about a young witch turns thirty this year.

Dubbed version: 12:55 p.m. on July 28 and 7 p.m. on July 31; subtitled version: 7 p.m. on July 29; at the Regal Elmwood Center (2001 Elmwood Ave.) and Regal Transit Center (6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville)



Find links to film critic Christopher Schobert’s latest reviews at rottentomatoes.com/critic/christopher-schobert.



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