Skyway open-air cinema adjusts to bring community together
by Mr. Anthony Davis
The West Hill Community Association has a long history of advocacy and community service in the unincorporated Skyway and King County communities. Their weekly event, Skyway Outdoor Cinema, which hosts outdoor movies on a 20-foot screen every Friday in August, has been a Skyway staple every summer since 2003.
Devin Chicras, board member of the West Hill Community Association since 2014 (and president of the South Seattle Emerald board of directors), has been actively involved in the Skyway outdoor cinema since 2013. At that time, the organization was discussing the advisability of closing the cinema due to the lack of volunteers and the drop in attendance. from the community. Knowing how precious the event was for the community, Chicras took action to ensure the continuity of outdoor cinema.
“My partner and I, Mary Goebel, decided that this was something too valuable for the community to just let it stop,” Chicras says. “So we set off on the adventure and, having no real experience in event planning, we learned everything from scratch, from sourcing suppliers to purchasing audiovisual equipment. We bought all of our gear after doing an Indiegogo campaign. “
The efforts of Chicras and Goebel have not only saved the open-air cinema, they have revitalized it. Under their leadership and partnership with the West Hill Community Association, other community partners and a few sponsors, the Skyway Outdoor Cinema was better than ever.
For seven years, the event has grown steadily. When Chicras and Goebel intervened in 2013, the expected attendance was less than 100 people for each screening. In 2019, the events would attract more than 500 people. They added food trucks, people in costume to entertain the kids, balloon tornadoes, and makeup artists. The event drew huge appeal in the Skyway community, and Chicras and Goebel have spent a series of successful summers running the event until the close of 2020.
“In 2020, we were like all other organizations, trying to figure out what we were going to do,” explains Chicras. “It was so uncertain for so long. Normally, the community votes on their films in April. And at that point we were just learning the stop and everyone thought it was only going to last [a] a few weeks.”
Due to the COVID-19 closure in 2020, the Skyway Outdoor Cinema was faced with the possibility of not hosting an event for the first time since 2003. The closure of the event was difficult for Chicras to imagine. Apart from showing films for neighbors and entertainment for children, the event was also a place where community organizations came together to discuss important issues and people living in the community related to each other, and the organizers have often provided valuable education on voting. The importance of this event led Chicras to another option – a virtual version of the open-air cinema that would partner with the library.
“We have partnered with the Skyway library, [via] their adolescent services librarian, Maggie Block, ”says Chicras. “Maggie helped us figure out how to use the library’s free streaming resources and let people know that they can stream movies at home without having to buy, say, a Netflix subscription or something like that. “
While the 2020 event was a success in providing access to movies, providing valuable information on how libraries can be used to stream movies for free, and allowing outdoor cinema to continue without skipping a beat. year, a vital element was still missing – community engagement.
“It’s one of my favorite things to do in Seattle,” Block said. “It’s beautiful and it brings people together. Everything from food trucks and affordable snacks to quizzes and fun prizes. It’s a great community celebration.
This year the event will still be virtual, but Chicras has found a way to bring back some elements of community engagement. “We will be posting every Thursday evening from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm giving out bags full of treats, candies, popcorn and surprises. People will have something to take home while they watch their movies on Friday. “
Chicras believes that it is important to maintain the physical connection with the community even if people cannot watch the films together. The pickup station will be festive, provide quick connections to the community, and may include a person in a dinosaur costume.
“It’s still not the same… We are a voluntary organization, and we take a lot. … And we’re trying like everyone else to find a way to adapt… It’s Skyway. There aren’t many resources for people – even before the pandemic there [were] not a lot of places to congregate. So we feel somehow responsible for filling this gap. “
The Skyway open-air cinema has screenings every Friday in August. To register for the films, visit the event website website. To note: You must register in advance to see the films. Once recorded, movies are available for 72 hours.
To pick up snacks on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., visit the 7-11 in the old parking lot of the American bank.
Programming of the Skyway 2021 virtual cinema:
Friday August 6: Sister Act (1992)
Friday August 13: Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Friday August 20: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Friday August 27: Raya and the last dragon (2021)
Mr. Anthony Davis (Mike Davis) is a local journalist covering arts, culture and sports.
📸 Featured Image: Black Panther fans at the 2019 Skyway Outdoor Cinema. Photo: Susan Fried.
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