Ferndale DDA brings movies to the street this summer

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published July 9, 2013

FERNDALE — The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority is always trying to bring residents and visitors to the stretch of Nine Mile Road that makes up the downtown district with events from groundbreakings to art auctions.

On July 18, the DDA will try something a little different with the help of some lawn chairs and an inflatable movie screen.

“Get Reel — Outdoor Movies on Vester Street,” kicks off July 18 right off East Nine Mile Road with a showing of “Mamma Mia,” and a performance from the Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company. The DDA has rented an inflatable movie screen and a sound system to project the screen right on the street and encourages visitors to bring their own chairs, food and nonalcoholic beverages.

“We are not the first city to think of something like this, but we wanted to put this out there to keep downtown Ferndale at the top of everyone’s mind,” Chris Hughes, the DDA communications and marketing manager, said. “It is honestly a fairly simple program to put on and there is not that many labor intensive things, but it is really entertaining. This is just a great way for residents and businesses to come out and gather together to have some fun.”

Vester Street, between Bermuda Street and Woodward Avenue, will be closed beginning at 3 p.m. July 18 and patrons can start setting up their movie-viewing spot at 6 p.m. with the show set to begin at roughly 8:30 p.m.

July won’t be the only show, however, as the DDA has two more shows planned for the summer. “Grease” will be shown Aug. 15 as a way to help kick off the Woodward Dream Cruise, while another movie is scheduled for Sept. 19, but no film has been selected yet.

“We would like to see all the businesses encourage customers to come out for a fun, free time — eat some popcorn and watch a free movie,” Hughes said. “This is not like a festival or an art fair — which are wonderful events — but a nice, easy, fun time in downtown.”

While Hughes met with the Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company, which recently relocated to Ferndale, a few weeks back, the idea came up for the crew to help provide entertainment for the street movies.

Eric Swanson, co-founder and current artistic director for Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company, said “Mamma Mia” was a great fit for what they had planned.

“The idea is to make the movie-going experience really an experience,” Swanson said. “In a brainstorming session with Chris, we brought up how we could do a sing-along with the movie. People will see our performers performing and singing live, dancing in the audience, and it is meant to be an interactive experience.

“We will be an extension of what you see on the screen. We want to accent the movie, not distract from enjoying the movie.”

Hughes said participating in the sing-along is strictly voluntary and echoed what Swanson said that the performers would not distract from the movie.

Swanson added that this event is not only great entertainment, but it is also a chance for his company to help gain some exposure in the community.

“I think this is something a lot of downtown areas are not doing and I love the idea of an outdoor movie where you can come sit, relax and watch a movie,” he said. “People will get a chance to see local talent compete with the big screen, and we have good talent, too. This particular type of audience may not know who we are or attend one of our shows, so this is a great way for us to introduce ourselves to downtown Ferndale, as well.”

Vester Street is a hidden gem in the downtown area, Hughes said, and these movie events could help bring more people to the local businesses in that area.

“People may know about Vester Street, but they don’t use it all that much,” she said. “We don’t have many side streets in our downtown district, but this is one of them and it is a cool little street.”

No glass containers are allowed during the event.

For more information, call the DDA at (248) 546-1632.