BARTLETT PARK

‘Finding Nemo’ will be shown as part of the Bartlett Park Summer Movies Nights on Friday. The series will continue throughout the rest of the summer.

While silver screens in and around St. Joseph won’t be lit up for at least a few more weeks, there’s a new chance for people to catch a movie in St. Joseph.

A collaboration between multiple local organizations, Bartlett Park Summer Movie Nights will give kids and families that long-lost chance to watch a movie together on the big screen. It will host its latest movie night at 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 17, at Bartlett Park with the Pixar hit “Finding Nemo.”

The event is the brainchild of a Mark Twain Elementary School teacher. Daniel Siehndel said he could see how much kids were missing the engagement and fun of summer during the shutdown, so he wanted to do something about it.

“I kind of just sat down and thought ‘You know what? What could we put together for kids... to look forward to in the summertime, something for them to maybe get out of their house?” he said.

Collaborating with Mark Twain’s PTA, St. Joseph Public Libraries, the St. Joseph Parks and Recreation Department and several local businesses, the decision was made to give people a series of monthly movies on a big screen outdoors. It would also allow for social distancing and safety and let people socialize with others they may not have seen for awhile.

The big goal, Siehndel said, was to make the event affordable for everyone. Adult entry is $2 per person and $1 each for kids. The concessions also will be $1 each.

“I just I wanted to make it an event that money was not the driving force. We wanted to make it as inexpensive as possible for the kids and their families to encourage as many of them that wanted to come out to show up,” he said.

With this event being the one of the first of its kind for Siehndel to book, it took some effort on the community to make it happen. A&M Amusement Inc. in Maryville, Missouri, agreed to supply the inflatable screen. The library offered to split the licensing costs of the movies. Kona Ice said it would be selling its signature icy treats, as well as popcorn and soda on the cheap.

“There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes,” Siehndel said.

While national surveys have shown an apprehension for American moviegoers to return to indoor theaters, an outdoor screening, especially with measures like the Bartlett Park movie series has in place, is meant to reassure people looking to have a fun family experience. Areas will be marked off to allow for social distancing, masks will be available for free to anyone who wants one and concessions will be delivered to where people are sitting to avoid crowding together.

“We want to be able to give them opportunities like this but still kind of be smart about it,” Siehndel said.

It speaks to the drive and connections in St. Joseph that it was able to happen without many snags. While an initial screening in June didn’t attract as many people as organizers would have hoped, they’ve been seeing momentum building for the “Nemo” screening and an upcoming “Moana” showing in August.

If both are successes, Siehndel said he hope to fit in another one before the school year begins.

“(It would be a) back-to-school type thing for a lot of the families and students not only in the St. Joseph School District, but some of those surrounding schools as well. We think it would be a great opportunity for people to kind of come out and see their teacher for the next year and get a bunch of teachers out there helping out,” he said.

Following the shutdown, Siehndel said he’s looking forward to seeing people out again with some sense of normalcy and optimism.

“We’ve made it very, very inexpensive for the kids and family. So they can just show up, have fun and enjoy it. And then, you know, come to the next one and go from there,” he said.

The event will take place at 3100 Monterey St. next to the upper baseball field at Bartlett Park. All community members are welcome. No RSVP is required. Drive-in spots will be available but are limited.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at andrew.gaug@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug