The unofficial start of summer usually means barbecues, heading to the beach, relaxing at the pool or getting in a game of golf. It also means checking out an action-packed, emotional, spine-tingling or inspirational story projected on the big screen. Villages residents have a myriad of choices for a cinematic experience. “It’s going to be a fun summer,” said Deborah Mills, operations director for The Villages Movie Theaters. “There are so many great movies coming.” The summer movie season, which usually kicks off on Memorial Day weekend, already has cleared the starting gate with such superhero fare as “Shazam!” and “Avengers: Endgame.”
The Villages’ theaters — Rialto Theatre, Old Mill Playhouse and Barnstorm Theater — have a few special events in the coming months.
Beginning Monday, the Old Mill and Barnstorm are bringing back Free Kids Summer Cinema.
On Mondays and Thursdays at the Old Mill and Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Barnstorm, audiences will have their choice of one of two free movies. Doors will open at 8 a.m., with the movies starting at 9 a.m. Patrons also can enjoy a hot dog, chips and a 16-ounce drink for $3.50.
At the Old Mill, “Curious George” and “The Cat in the Hat” will be shown Monday and Thursday, while “The Grinch” (the 2018 version) and “The Lorax” will be shown at Barnstorm Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Rialto will continue to offer its Event Cinema programs, whether it’s through Fathom or Seven Arts, including special showings of “Saving Private Ryan,” “Pavarotti,” “Field of Dreams” and “Forrest Gump.”
One new program that has taken off is $5 Tuesdays, where every movie except special events or Event Cinema costs $5 all day and all night Tuesdays.
“Business has increased on Tuesdays,” said Jenna Deafenbaugh, assistant manager at the Rialto. “Everybody’s loving it. We’re getting a ton of phone calls.”
At the Barnstorm, patrons can enjoy “Midnight Movie Madness,” where all showings after 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays are $6 each and some food items are discounted.
“People are out and it’s the weekend. They’ll say, ‘I don’t have to go home yet, let’s catch a movie,’” Mills said. “It’s something for the night owls.”
In terms of first-run movies, the summer is traditionally one of the busier times of year for the theaters.
“It’s good to be able to come out of the summer heat,” Mills said.
Expect to see such family fare as “Aladdin,” “Toy Story 4,” “The Lion King” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home.”
“Disney is keeping us busy all summer long,” Mills said.
Other movies arriving in the coming weeks include “Men in Black: International,” “The Secret Life of Pets 2” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
For those looking for something beyond first-run movies, several resident clubs show classic movies every month.
Some groups focus on a particular genre, whether it’s westerns, war movies or specific directors. Other clubs specialize in showing independent or foreign films.
The Old Cowboy Movie Fan Club, which meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Wednesday of the month at Canal Street Recreation Center, showed the Roy Rogers film “Sunset on the Desert” as well as four cartoons.
The group usually shows a serial, but this year, it plans on showcasing longer movies from the 1950s.
“The fun part is seeing all the people enjoy the movies,” group leader Paul Kinder said. “They’ll say, ‘Wow, that was a great movie. I didn’t know that existed.’”
Kinder also runs the War Movies Fan Club, which meets at 6:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of the month at Allamanda Recreation Center. On June 12, the group will show “The Green Berets” starring John Wayne, whose movies have proven popular with residents.
“Without John Wayne, we would not have won World War II,” said Kinder, of the Village of Sabal Chase.
The Classic Movie Lovers Club, which meets at 7 p.m. the first Friday of the month at Odell Recreation Center, gives residents a chance to watch films from the 1930s to the 1950s.
“I wanted to watch them on a big screen,” said group leader Larry Clark. “The next best thing was to start a club and have like-minded people come in and like (the movies).”
Admission is a $1 donation. The group provides popcorn from its own popcorn machine as well as soda. The June 7 meeting will feature “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” a 1938 movie starring Lewis Stone, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Lana Turner.
“I try to find movies that you don’t find every week on TV,” said Clark, of the Village of St. Charles. “I enjoy the reaction of the people that come in, whether they’re laughing or gasping. It’s so much different than staying at home and watching a movie on TV.”
Michael Fortuna is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5273, or firstname.lastname@example.org.