Local officials are encouraging residents to stay at home during the weekend closure of the 405 Freeway beginning Saturday, July 16. And representatives of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa as well as the Westchester Park Advisory Board hope the public does just that because they are planning an event that evening that they believe is a community activity that jibes with summer and being outdoors.
The council, for the second year in a row, is sponsoring “Movie Night in the Park,” and this year’s venue will be Del Rey Lagoon Park in Playa del Rey. The free event will begin at sunset and is open to everyone.
The architect of “Movie Night” is Nate Kaplan, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s Westchester-Playa field deputy. He views the Playa del Rey site as having the necessary ingredients for a quintessential summer night under the stars.
“The clean ocean air and beautiful sunset is obviously going to be a major plus,” Kaplan said. “It’s also nice to see the Westchester Park Advisory Board, whose jurisdiction also includes Playa del Rey, try a new venue to keep the event fresh and perhaps even draw in a new crowd of locals.”
The advisory board collaborated with Kaplan on staging last year’s event at Westchester Park, and while the logistics will be different this year, Playa del Rey resident Cheryl Burnett says she is excited it is in her neighborhood this time.
“This is the perfect venue for a movie,” said Burnett, who also represents the area on the Westchester-Playa council. “People who come to the beach and stumble upon the event and people who live locally can have a great time and a great experience.
“There’s plenty of room, there’s local restaurants all around, we’ve got the beach within walking distanceŠ it really is a perfect venue for a movie night,” she reiterated.
The film that will be shown is a Dreamworks family-friendly movie from 2010. According to Burnett, the organizers were told the movie could be cancelled if “we (engage) in public relations or advertising on the name” of the movie.
Several organizations donated to “Movie Night,” including Loyola Marymount University.
The local council is the community event’s biggest sponsor, donating $500 at its July 5 meeting.
A “Movie Night” at Westchester Park is also slated to take place in August, according to Craig Eggers, the vice president of the park board.
Eggers said like the Playa screening, the initial plan was to have the Westchester showing at the site of the park’s new skate plaza this month. “But because of a delay in construction (of the skate plaza), we weren’t able to,” he explained.
The Ballona Institute, a Playa del Rey-based environmental organization, is also an event sponsor, and they will be contributing popcorn, bags and ice.
“When we found out (the local council) was doing this, we thought this was a great opportunity because they haven’t really focused on Playa de Rey a lot in the past,” said Marcia Hanscom, the co-director of the institute. “We felt this was a nice way to say thank you.”
Burnett said last year that a movie night at the Playa del Rey park would be an ideal way to draw more people to the area – one of the primary ideas behind the concept of showing movies in the local parks.
“I think that Lagoon Park would be a great site,” Burnett said last August. “It could have the same effect of introducing people to how special our park is and there’s plenty of picnic area.”
Kaplan said last year’s evening went well, but he and park advisory representatives decided to do more outreach earlier this time.
“It was hard to be sure if the event was going to be a success; we kept our fingers crossed,” Kaplan recalled. “After a good showing last year, we are confident that we will have a good turnout this time around after establishing lines of communication to get the word out for this Saturday night.
“It will be an evening of free fun that the whole family can enjoy.”
With the freeway closure and potential traffic snarls dubbed “Carmageddon” in full swing, Burnett felt the timing was just right to host a movie on a night when residents have been asked for weeks not to venture very far from their homes.
“It couldn’t have fallen on a better day,” she said. “What a perfect time for the community to stay at home and enjoy a family movie in a beautiful city park.”
Kaplan concurred with Burnett on the possibility of the freeway closure attracting more residents to the beachside park.
“Fortunately, government agencies and the local media have done a fantastic job spreading the word about the closure,” he said. “Most people I speak to admit that they plan on staying close to home to avoid any headaches on the road.
“Hopefully, our community takes advantage of this opportunity to enjoy a pleasant night with their neighbors, friends and family.”
Kaplan said one of Rosendahl’s goals has always been to draw more people into the city’s recreational facilities and having events like “Movie Night” is a part of that approach.
“Councilman Rosendahl has always been a true advocate for accessing and utilizing all our public parks,” said the councilman’s deputy. “Whether it’s Westchester or Del Rey Lagoon Park, creating opportunities for the public to enjoy and recreate is always one of his goals and one of the goals for our office.”
Burnett gave credit to Scott Carni, the head of the park advisory board, for his logistical support. “I really appreciate Scott’s efforts and his commitment to bring ‘Movie Night’ to Playa del Rey,” she said.
Kaplan said the work of the advisory board was key in bringing the idea of a summertime event in a local park to fruition both last year and this year.
“When I introduced the concept last year, there were a lot of kinks to iron out and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. We are lucky to have an intelligent, engaged park advisory board in Westchester/Playa del Rey who took charge this year,” Kaplan said. “By using the lessons we learned from last year I am confident that this is going to be a great time.”
Hanscom said the event will offer people who might be members of the same community the chance to get to know each other.
“What better way than at a community event like this one?” Hanscom, who lives in Playa del Rey, said.
Kaplan, who was Rosendahl’s communications deputy before taking over his current position, said “Movie Night” is an initiative that he has always viewed as a gift to the Westchester-Playa del Rey community.
“It was always my hope to create this pleasant event and give it back to the community to enjoy for decades to come,” he said. “Thankfully, my hopes have come true.”
Burnett hopes this will be the first of many Playa del Rey activities to come in future years.
“I’m really excited about it and I hope that everyone has the chance to come and enjoy a beautiful summer night in our park,” she concluded.