St. Michael Cinema Finds Success with Outdoor Movies
ST. MICHAEL -- There's now another place to catch a drive-up movie in central Minnesota.
St. Michael Cinema, located at 4300 O'Day Ave. N.E., began showing outdoor films six days a week earlier this month. Cinema manager Shelley Schnell says the outdoor screenings of classic, popular titles were originally intended as a temporary offering due to COVID-19.
The enthusiasm generated has made theater staff rethink that decision.
"We've seen the excitement grow, and the amount of comments and emails, so we're definitely looking at what the future might be," Schnell said. "It looks like this is something people are looking for and wanting, regardless of what's going on in our world."
Schnell says they've already sold out several screenings. The parking lot holds around 80 vehicles right now, but theater staff are examining the layout to see if there could be room for more. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are scanned by parking lot attendants right before show time. Attendants then guide drivers to a space in the parking lot facing the 70 ft. screen painted on the side of the cinema building.
“You can see (the films) fantastically from all over the lot,” Schnell said. “Our building is really suited to a huge outdoor screen.”
Moviegoers typically watch the film from their vehicles, but are allowed to bring lawn chairs into a patio area if dealing with an obstructed view.
Schnell says they take their customers' tastes and interests into account when selecting titles. The films are all previous theatrical releases, made available by movie studios. Schnell says the selection is strong.
"Even Disney has jumped on board and made 12 titles available, which is very rare,” she added.
The cinema sells meals, snacks and beverages from their concession area, but also welcomes outside food or grills.
“Movie theaters really rely on concession sales,” she said. “So we do encourage people to grill out, but maybe think about getting some side items from the concessions.”
As far as advanced planning, Schnell has a few recommendations. Since movie audio is played through the radio, customers should be certain to have either a working car stereo or a portable radio on hand. Schnell also recommends arriving at the theater about 30 minutes before films begin in order to park and get set up.
“If you show up right at show time, it’s already dark and really hard to park cars," she explained. "So, come early, bring your grills and have a good time.”
St. Michael Cinema screens outdoor movies every day except for Monday. For more information, including show times, titles and tickets, visit their website.