Since 2011, New Center Park has hosted a summer series of free movies, plays and other programs for community members of all ages.

Since 2011, New Center Park has hosted a summer series of free movies, plays and other programs for community members of all ages.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

New Center Park summer series returns to Detroit

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 10, 2018


DETROIT — Those in Detroit can stop by New Center Park this summer for the return of the Summer Park Series, which features a number of free activities and programs.

The park series is organized by Midtown Detroit Inc. and is funded mostly through philanthropic donations from groups like the American Title Co., the Kresge Foundation and UnitedHealthcare. Several local organizations also contributed smaller amounts.

“We’ve been doing this for a few years,” said Annemarie Borucki, the special projects manager for Midtown Detroit Inc. “The programming has been in its current form since the early 2000s. We merged with University Cultural Center Association and New Center Council in 2011, and when City Fest stopped in 2010, we stepped in and started doing things like outdoor films and outdoor productions.”

Doors open at 8 p.m. and each film begins at dark. Family-friendly movies are scheduled for Friday nights through Aug. 31, and more adult-themed movies are scheduled for every Wednesday night through Sept. 5.

“Wednesday nights are targeted more for adult customers, while Fridays are more geared toward being family friendly,” explained Borucki. “We try to ensure there are diverse characters and a variety of films, from dramas to documentaries to cartoons.”

In addition to the weekly movies, a number of other programs will take place in New Center Park as part of the series, including plays, parties and a cultural festival.

“As for our plays, we will be hosting a production of ‘Wanda and Winky Go to California,’ which is a wonderful play featuring two giant elephant puppets. We’re doing four performances of that in July. The Detroit Actor’s Theatre Company is coming back once again for our series, and they will be performing ‘In the Heights,’ written by Lin Manuel Miranda. There’s also an opera version of ‘Cinderella’ called ‘Cenerentola.’”

“Cenerentola” will be performed on Saturday, June 30. “In the Heights” will be performed Wednesday, July 18, through Sunday, July 22. “Wanda and Winky Go to California” will be performed Friday, July 27, to Sunday, July 29. Additionally, the AMC Kids Party, featuring games, music and crafts will take place Friday, June 15, and the Detroit Caribbean Cultural Festival will take place on Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12.

Borucki said the summer park series will be a good opportunity for families to get out and enjoy the Detroit community.

“There’s no shortage of people looking for free entertainment,” she said. “It’s in a good location and is right across the street from the Fisher Building. People can count on it in the summer as something that offers good, family-friendly entertainment and attractions like free popcorn and activities for kids.”

The series kicked off June 1 with a showing of the children’s cartoon “Rock Dog.” Several parents at the kickoff said they were happy to find a free event that kids would enjoy and that was nearby.

“I first heard about it on Facebook,” said Detroit resident Christina Rodgers, who attended the program with her son, Khalil. “I like the location, I like what they’re doing and I like letting parents have a good program to take kids to and have a chance for fellowship with other parents.”

Several families discovered the park series in previous years and were eagerly awaiting its return this summer.

“We came last year to every movie night. I couldn’t wait until they came back; they’re very nice,” said Detroit resident Tracy Richardson, who brought her daughter and two grandchildren. “It’s peaceful, it’s nice for the kids, and it’s nice for people to get out of all the chaos of life and do something together.”

One of the key sponsors of the park series this summer is UnitedHealthcare. Jessica Byrd, a marketing specialist with UnitedHealthcare, said the insurance provider wants to have more one-on-one contact with those they serve and ensure that they are active in the local area. 

“This is a way to be out with the community,” said Byrd. “It’s free, so all children have the opportunity to enjoy festivities in Detroit. … One of our big missions is being active advocates in the community. This lets us do that.”

UnitedHealthcare is not only helping to pay for the park series, but it is also helping to provide craft projects for the kids to enjoy prior to the movie.

“We’re sponsoring the whole series, but we’ll be on-site on the first Friday of every month with our community partner, Arts & Scraps,” said Byrd. “Each time, they are doing a craft with the kids that the kids can then take home. Tonight, they’re making a guitar to go along with the movie ‘Rock Dog.’” 

Borucki said there should be something for everyone with this year’s park series.

“This would be their opportunity to come out and experience free, quality programming and see all of the changes and improvements going on along the Woodward corridor,” said Borucki. “It’s an exciting time to come to Detroit.”

Check out a gallery of the fun at New Center Park.