Outdoor movies at a price you'll adore

Free films Wednesday night at SteelStacks in Bethlehem are a cheap night out.

SteelStacks offers free outdoor family movies most Wednesday nights through August.

Jill Bugbee raced to her car with her son Collin, 4, in tow, anxious to get out of a fast-moving lightning storm.

The scene highlighted a perk of attending ArtsQuest's free outdoor family movie series at SteelStacks in south Bethlehem: Sometimes a lot of the drama happens off the big screen.

"It was good except for the rain," said Jill, of Allentown. "The thunderstorm and the lightning coming down in the middle of the movie wasn't good. We'd come back on a nicer night."

The free outdoor movies on most Wednesday nights through August draw hundreds of people interested in sitting in lawn chairs and watching a film beneath the stars. A little rain didn't scare many people off Wednesday night. But when the thunder boomed and the lightning crashed, it was time to pack it in.

We left happy we saw about 45 minutes of "Rise of the Guardians." And we plan to return. For about $10 we stocked up on candy and enjoyed a movie with a big bucket of hot popcorn from the ArtsQuest Center. We saved on candy by hitting the dollar store beforehand and we carried in bottles of water. We splurged and got a bucket of popcorn, which was reasonably priced, especially considering the free movie. We got a big tub for less than $5.

It's a great deal when you consider a drive-in or the movie theater would have cost more than $20 just for a family to get in the door.

The movies start at 8 p.m. This week they are showing "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Let's hope the skies around the theater are clear. The schedule for the rest of the summer is available at http://www.artsquest.org/family/movies.php.

"Over 60 percent of the programs we offer at SteelStacks, the Banana Factory and Musikfest are free, and this is just another great example of providing free, quality activities for families in the summertime," said Curt Mosel, ArtsQuest's vice president of marketing and public relations "The series is off to a great start. "Mary Poppins" had about 250 people and 60 to 70 kids, while the Muppets had about 150 people and approximately 40 kids."

The crowd we saw on Wednesday was large, but there was still plenty of room.

"Everyone who comes seems to really enjoy the experience," Curt said. "While some younger children like to run around, many adults find the movies a great way to relive childhood memories while catching up with friends they attend the shows with."

You can get a sense of the scene in a video at http://www.mcall.com/onthecheap. My sons Harry, Spencer and Matthew Furey-Soper had a great time, and all the other children in attendance seemed to be smiling as well.

We asked Collin Bugbee if he enjoyed his big night out.

"Mm-hmm," he said. "And I have a BMX bike."

Turns out his father, Eric Bugbee, is an independent filmmaker, and is working on a BMX-themed movie titled "Heroes of Dirt." Here's to hoping we see it on the big screen some day, especially if it's for free at SteelStacks.

Send your tips: spencer.soper@mcall.com, 610-820-6694 or P.O. Box 1260 Allentown, 18105

Facebook: Type "On The Cheap" in the Facebook search box and check under pages.

Videos: mcall.com/onthecheap

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