Roxy outdoor theater

Mike Steinberg, left, and Aaron Roos set up part of the screen for the outdoor movie showings as they get ready to test the projection recently. The outdoor theater will open Friday with a showing of "Singin' in the Rain."

With Friday night already sold out, the Roxy’s new outdoor cinema space is making its debut this weekend, screening “Singin' in the Rain” for 25 to 30 socially distanced moviegoers each night.

“It’s very unique. There’s a kind of romantic feel to it,” said Mike Steinberg, the nonprofit theater’s executive director, of the new home for "Movies in the Garden." “Just the setting, the ivy on the wall, the whole place just feels kind of cozy.”

The Roxy staff have been sprucing up the patio space behind their building over the last few months to create an intimate outdoor cinema experience that’s safe during a pandemic. The atmosphere and movie lineup will be different than what Missoulians have experienced at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field for Centerfield Cinema, which has featured summer blockbuster hits like “Jaws,” “Mean Girls” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” on Thursday nights.

“Pee-Wee's Big Adventure” and “Harold and Maude” will round out the month of August at the Roxy garden space, following this weekend’s “Singin' in the Rain,” a 1952 comedy musical that Steinberg said was a hit at one of their test screenings.

“It remains extremely funny and there was even a little singing along,” he said.

While the space could potentially hold 50 to 60 people, the Roxy is only seating 25-30 for each showing in order to space individuals, couples or groups 6 feet apart. Beverages and their famous organic popcorn will be available for purchase outside so guests don’t have to go inside for refreshments. 

Steinberg said they hope the “Movies in the Garden” provide a sense of community and togetherness that we’re all starved for right now and another option to see film safely, in addition to the stadium screenings.

“People are really hungry for entertainment and a fun experience. Even with social distancing and people wearing masks, I think there’s still something to be said for that communal experience of watching a movie together even if you are 6 feet away.”

They plan to screen movies in the outdoor garden space through October, releasing a lineup at the start of each month. Depending on the weather and demand, they may continue into November. Steinberg said with sweaters and blankets, a fall outdoor movie experience could be doable.

“People watch football when it’s cold out and the games are much longer than movies,” he said.

For now, the Roxy staff are excited to welcome Missoula's moviegoing community back to their Hip Strip location.

“Sure, we show movies, but we’re a community space and being able to provide this is really important to us,” Steinberg said. “It’s been really, really tough on our entire staff because this is what we kind of live to do, so we’re looking forward to getting back into it.”