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11

Aug 2010

On Mission and Movies

Are you looking for a creative way to reach out to your community? Why not take a idea from Lee Costic and start a movie theater in your back yard!

Every summer since 2006, Lee has transformed his backyard into the Hanover Starlite Backyard Movie Theatre, offering free movies and family fun to all his neighbors. To learn a little more about what Lee is doing in Hanover, we caught up with him and asked a few questions.

How did the Hanover Starlite Backyard Theatre start? What gave you the idea to do this?

I’d always been a huge fan of drive-ins, there was one near my college. In 2003, I saw an article online about setting up a backyard theater with some very detailed instructions (important because I am pretty manually challenged!) When we moved to Mechanicsville in ’04, our house just happened to have a half-acre open field next to it, which was perfect, and I set it up in the summer of ’06.

What all is involved in running the theatre?

Mainly just promotion, and setting up and tearing down the equipment each time. People keep telling me we need to build a snack bar, but we’re not there yet!

What has the community’s reaction been to the Hanover Starlite Backyard Theatre?

The reaction is always positive, but the turnout has been mixed. Everyone I talk to–inside or outside of our community–always says, “Wow that’s a cool idea!”. And we’ve advertised and promoted it with signs all over the neighborhood. I really thought the whole subdivision would show up: they didn’t. The number of strangers coming out has always been really small. But I think that gets to a key part of community: people need to feel an initial connection to something before they will invest. People are understandably reluctant to go watch a movie in the backyard of someone they’ve never met. However, when our subdivision holds its official “Neighborhood Cookout and Movie Night”, tons of people come out. And I think it’s because they have that initial connection to the neighborhood that makes them more comfortable. (Or maybe it’s just because there’s food!)

What drives you to keep putting so much energy and effort into this project?

Insanity? Haha. Actually this project is embodies several of my passions: technology, media, design, promotion, being outside, etc., so I really enjoy doing it. And my kids really love it, so that’s a big part of it.

How does (or does) the gospel impact or influence what you’re doing with the Hanover Starlite Backyard Theatre?

It’s definitely part of it. It’s funny, I like movies, but I’m not a die-hard movie buff or anything. But I really love how movies are such a “great uniter,” a common ground for literally all kinds of people, and I’m always excited about the potential of who might show up.

Additionally, despite the mixed turnouts, it has been a great way to meet some of our neighbors. Another aspect of it is just trying to serve people with a chance to unwind, and maybe giving families something they can all experience and enjoy together. And if we can keep it going, I am hoping it will be a safe alternative for my kids and their friends when they are teenagers.

Any advice for people who are thinking of trying to reach out to their communities in creative ways?

I think I would want to encourage them and underscore the importance of community. But I’d also say that reaching out to our communities doesn’t always need to be a such big ordeal like the Starlite: ANY thing we do to engage people is important. I really love (and am challenged by) 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.” Reflecting and sharing our hope in Jesus is the key, and anything–from movie night or neighborhood picnic to simple conversations across the fence–can all be effective.

I was particularly struck and challenged by Lee’s answer to the last question. I think, at least for me, that I often think that my outreach to my neighbors has to be something big. But as Lee says, “Reflecting and sharing our hope in Jesus is the key, and anything–from movie night or neighborhood picnic to simple conversations across the fence–can all be effective.”

If you’re interested in seeing the Hanover Starlite Backyard Theatre in action this weekend, Lee will be showing Iron Man on Friday, August 13th, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua on Sunday, August 15th. Movies start at 8:45. If you can’t make it out, at least check out Lee’s Flickr page with photos of his setup… it is pretty impressive!

*Note: Lee said that he’ll likely be showing 5-10 more movies between now and early October. We’ll announce them on The City for those who’d like to join in.

UPDATE: Direction to Hanover Starlite Backyard Theatre

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