Looking for a huge summer hit? A movie on the big screen is just the ticket. This marquee event will attract regulars and new patrons alike and is sure to be a crowd pleaser with appropriate planning.
The Essentials of a Great Outdoor Movie
Timeline – Planning a big outdoor event requires time… lots of it. Start your planning as early as possible. If this is your first Dive-In, shoot for the end of the season. You’ll allow yourself plenty of time to throw the ultimate end-of-summer bash. Give consideration to a great date and time. Crowds will be bigger on Friday and Saturday nights. Lastly, don’t forget that the dog-days of summer mean later sunsets. Assume that it won’t be dark enough to show your movie until 9:00pm in most conditions.
Early Event Marketing – Want to market a great event? Start with a great movie. Every summer we see DVD releases of the highest grossing theater content from the previous 6 months. Take a look back at box-office revenue and it’s easy to figure out what movie is going to draw big crowds. If your plan is to have a family friendly event, shy away from anything with a PG-13 Rating or higher. Nemo trumps Jaws.
Legal Considerations – Once you’ve picked your movie, you’ll need to purchase the rights to show it publicly. Click here for more details. Note that many popular movies (especially those owned by Disney) limit public showings outside of theaters, especially in the summer. Studios may also place restrictions charging admission at your event.
Studios will encourage low-cost or no-cost events and you can use this to your advantage. We recommend offering your Dive In as a complimentary event and using it as a marketing opportunity for your other paid offerings. If the event is going to be complimentary, you’ll need to consider who you market to. Should this event be only for your members, or should you open it up to the public to showcase your programming?
Pick the Perfect Venue – We hate to cross over to the dry-side… but when it comes to outdoor movies, we’re land lovers. The idea of floating in an innertube watching a movie loses its luster ten minutes in. Wrinkly fingers, a stiff neck and hypothermia set in as your bumping into a neighbor you didn’t know you knew. Go poolside and skip the in-pool seating. You’ll thank us later.
Pick Your Team – As your plan starts to come together you’ve probably already realized you’re going to need a lot of man power. You’re right. Overstaff for the event. Find volunteers, recruit other departments (they can share in the wealth of marketing ops) and pay your staff a premium to stick around after-hours.
Safety – We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about safety. There are a few dangers associated with nighttime pool festivities you should avoid being supprised by. First and foremost – close the pool when it’s too dark to guard. This varies by location, but err on the side of a pre-dawn last call. Next, make sure you have a solid “missing child” protocol in place – this only gets more complicated in low-lighting situations, especially when you’re hoping for a big crowd. Finally, electricity and wet swimmers don’t mix. Use every precaution when bringing electrical equipment outdoors and/or near your pool.
Technology – Fifteen years ago, Blockbuster still sold movies, Amazon only sold books and MapQuest made you a wonderful map for you to print and take with you on your road trip. Fortunately for us, technology progressed. The tasks of life (including running a poolside movie) are much easier than they used to be. Inflatable screens, WIFI based projectors and Bluetooth speakers make this a much less formidable task. If you weren’t a member of the AV club in high school, find one. Your young staff know AV and can get your movie up on the big screen in no time. The best advice we can give you? Do a dry run the night before to make sure everything runs according to plan.
Activities – Mid-summer means long days and sunlight extending well beyond school year bedtimes. In most scenarios, your projector will struggle to show an image outside until 9:00pm during the summer months. You’re going to want to start your event with a couple of poolside activities. Here are a few suggestions:
Pennies in the Pool – Simple, cheap and always a crowd pleaser. Head to the bank for a few rolls of pennies and send the kids to the bottom in search of a special few that you’ve marked for prizes.
Fireman’s Relay – Split the crowd into relay teams and send them back and forth across the pool. The catch? They need to swap an oversized (and now soaking wet) t-shirt and wear it on their lap across. This event even works well for weaker swimmers if you head to the shallowest sections of your pool.
Quick and Easy Dry Land Crowd Pleasers – Head to the dollar store with this shopping list: Chalk, Crayons, Face Paint, Stick on Tattoos. You now have a quick and easy activity for each corner of your deck to spread out the crowd.
Swim Team Showcase – If you’ve got a swim team, show off the fun! Consider hosting an abbreviated dual meet. Invite the other team to stick around for the festivities and you’ll be able to casually display your clubs programming expertise.
Bingo – If you don’t have a poolside Bingo set, you’ve missed out. Bingo is super-family friendly even on the most modest of prize budgets (a grand-prize fidget spinner sends the crowd into a frenzy). Head to amazon and grab a solid ball tumbler and one-hundred shutter card boards. They’re reusable and don’t require markers.
Water Balloons – Water balloon technology has progressed rapidly in the last five years (we’re being serious here). Gone are the days of hand-tying balloons. Bunch O Balloons and a handful of other brands have made the water balloon fight of your childhood dreams a reality that’s only minutes away.
Glow Sticks – Glow sticks buy you that last few minutes when the sun is setting and you’re focusing your projector. They’re instant crowd pleasers and inexpensive when bought in bulk. Stock up early in the season and ration your supply through a few nighttime events.
Good Times, Great Eats
Considering feeding the crowd? Here are your options.
Keep it Simple – Not ready to foot the bill for a family dinner? Encourage guests to pack-in and pack-out their own food. Just make sure they’re well aware that you won’t have food and beverages on-hand.
Easy Street – If you’re going to provide, but don’t want to break the bank, simple options like fruit (bananas, apples, oranges) or packaged treats (fruit snacks, candy, chips) paired with bottled water or juice boxes can be quickly distributed with minimal staff.
Crowd Pleasers – If you’re planning to run these events throughout the summer, why not rent or buy a popcorn popper, snow cone maker or cotton candy machine? Take good care of your equipment and you’ll pay off your investment quickly.
Showtime Showcase – If you’ve got a café on-site, or run a camp that prepares lunches, why not encourage your kitchen to showcase their culinary expertise? Nothing in house? No worries. Odds are you’ve got food trucks in your community that would love to help out. You may be able to work out a great deal if your event proves to draw crowds.
Don’t Forget the Why
Even the noblest pool operator doesn’t just throw a great party for the heck of it. Odds are, if you’re interested in putting on a great event, it’s probably to support your program marketing… so don’t forget to do that! Make sure you’ve got fliers for upcoming programs, swim lesson instructors on deck ready to meet prospective participants and a few activities that highlight your programming prowess. Gather email addresses of guests and follow up with other opportunities at your facility. If they had a great time, they’re going to come back.