Several hundred people turned Henry Miller Plaza into a movie theater on Friday night.
Los Banos residents young and old turned out for the 1980s classic “The Goonies,” a movie co-written by Steven Spielberg starring Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman and Joe Pantoliano among others.
“This is a great event for people to come out. We don’t use this park enough, this plaza,” event organizer Anne McCauley said. “It’s beautiful. We don’t use it enough, especially at night time. It takes a movie to kind of enjoy the park.”
Families piled into the plaza with lawn chairs and snacks (and if they thought ahead to the chilly evening, blankets). A vendor was on hand with churros and other goodies as well. The movie was shown from the front row with a laptop and projector. Speakers were set up on either side of the screen.
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“We’ve been showing a lot of the newer-released cartoon movies out here recently, but he wanted to kind of go with something a little older this time,” said Bryan Behn of Merced County Parks and Recreation about the 1985 film. “My little sisters, my brother and I, we’ve watched that movie on more than one occasion.”
The movie follows a group of friends who call themselves Goonies as they uncover a maze of underground tunnels leading to pirate treasure in Astoria, Ore. All the while, a family of angry criminals is hot on their trail after the Goonies accidentally uncover their hideout.
McCauley said it was a cheap, fun event for families.
“If they have a lot of kids that are expecting to go to the movies and go out, this is a freebie,” she said. “And hopefully everybody has fun because they’re just out here enjoying themselves. They’re sitting next to strangers and maybe striking up a conversation. Whether you’re a little tyke or you’re a parent with kids of any age or just a senior, we all enjoy it. There’s a kid in all of us.”
McCauley has been organizing Movie Night in the Park since about 2008.
She said a small fund at City Hall pays for the two Los Banos Recreation employees who take care of cleanup, while the sponsor – Allied Waste for this event – paid for Behn and another Merced County employee to set up the screen and run the movie. Behn and his partner had some trouble with the wind, but eventually got the inflatable screen tied town tight.
The sponsor also pays the studio for the public-viewing license. Behn said the one-time fee is about $1,200 for most movies and allows films to be shown to large crowds.
Los Banos holds two movie nights each summer, and played “Despicable Me 2” earlier this year. Another movie that was suggested for Friday was “The Wizard of Oz,” but with input from Eric Limon from Allied Waste, “The Goonies“ was chosen instead.
“We don’t want it to become such an old thing,” McCauley said. “We want it to be something people can really look forward to because it’s only going to be a couple of times each summer. We don’t want it to be some kind of stale thing and it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re always around.’ We’d like to have it as a family event they can look forward to.”