Cinemuskoka brings the moviegoing experience to the great outdoors

Starry night sky [Photo:]

The cottage experience: to some, it’s all about getting outside and spending time in the wilderness, and for others, it’s about escaping the hectic city life and relaxing — say, by curling up with a good film.

But now, Huntsville’s Cinemuskoka Film Festival is offering people the opportunity to do both at once. The festival, which is in its second year, is putting on a series of outdoor movie screenings this week, offering cottage-country residents the opportunity to settle in with a blanket and watch movies beneath the stars.

Melody Schaal, co-founder of the festival, says these screenings are all about giving film lovers a one-of-a-kind viewing experience. “I think it’s definitely unique,” she says. “It’s not something you do all the time.”

The films will be shown in River Mill Park’s bandshell, and while this is only the festival’s second year in operation, they’ve already taken things up a notch from last year. “This year we have a screen that we actually got made,” Schaal says. “We are trying to set up a little VIP area where for $5 you can rent a Muskoka chair to sit in for the evening, or for $20 you can buy the chair and it stays there for the weekend, and then you take it once you’re done with it.”

But if you prefer to drop in with just a blanket, that’s fine with the festival organizers. “Bring a blanket, bring a chair. Whatever you’re comfortable in.”

And just to give it a bit more of that movie-theatre vibe, there will also be a concession stand offering popcorn, hot chocolate, coffee, and other snacks.

So, how does one go about choosing the perfect outdoor film?

“First, you have to actually be able to get the rights for it,” Schaal laughs, noting that she’d initially hoped to get the rights to the first Star Wars film, only to discover they refuse to license it out to anyone.

Legality issues aside, Schaal says the best outdoor movie experiences tend to be family films or films that make people feel nostalgic, things like E.T. and Back to the Future — both of which Cinemuskoka will show this week. The perfect outdoor movie, she says, is one “that you want to go see, that you can see over and over again and it never gets old.”

The outdoor screenings are just one part of the larger festival, which brings films from around the world to Hunstville’s screens. And while cottage country is far from Hollywood, the festival’s organizers have found it is the perfect place to hold an up-and-coming festival.

“There actually are quite a few artists that live up in that area,” Schaal says. “…There’s a ton of filming that happens in that area.”

And, as any cottager knows, the locals are always up to help a neighbour.“It’s just kind of easier to get things done up there. People just seem nicer,” Schaal says. “People are embracing it. People want to help us.”

A full schedule of the outdoor screenings, along with the rest of the festival’s events, is available at Cinemuskoka’s website.

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