Berkshire Theatre Group's Sunset Cinema offers safe, fun night for families at the drive-in

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PITTSFIELD — A movie for $25 a carload.

That's the deal this summer at Berkshire Theatre Group's Sunset Cinema Outside, a weekend series of family films screened outdoors in the Taconic High School parking lot on Valentine Road.

Admission is $25 per vehicle and there will be a food truck on site with concession offerings.

Produced in collaboration with the City of Pittsfield, Sunset Cinema Outside begins Friday, July 10, with "Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical!" followed by "The Wiz Live!" July 11; and "Jurassic Park," July 16. "The Iron Giant" will be screened July 17, and Disney Pixar's "Coco," will be shown July 18.

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Screenings are scheduled to begin at 8:30.

"Thank you Berkshire Theatre Group for creating a fun and exciting series of summer events that will entertain our community in a safe and responsible way," Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said in a prepared statement.

"Disney's Newsies: The Broadway Musical!" was captured in live performance at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles in 2016. With a Tony Award-winning score by eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken (music) and Jack Feldman (lyrics), and a book by four-time Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein, "Newsies" is about "an intrepid group of kids called the 'newsies' in 1899, who fought corporate America and won," Berkshire Theatre Group CEO and artistic director Kate Maguire said in a prepared statement.

"(It) speaks to the younger generation today from another time in history through a story of kids who are fighting a good fight. It's the generation today who are gathering their energy to fight another good fight," Maguire said in a subsequent telephone interview.

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Directed by Kenny Leon and Matthew Diamond, "The Wiz Live!" is a made-for-television reinterpretation of the 1975 Broadway musical "The Wiz" that aired on NBC in December 2015. The stellar cast includes Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo, Stephanie Mills, David Alan Grier, Common and Elijah Kelley.

"I didn't want to show the (1978) Diana Ross-Michael Jackson film," Maguire said by phone. "This version is directed by Kenny Leon, a man of the theater. It's about life and possibilities."

"Jurassic Park," Steven Spielberg's 1993 sci-fi adventure blockbuster set on an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA, stars Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, and Richard Attenborough.

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"I asked my staff members to list the five movies they would most like to see at a drive-in and 'Jurassic Park' was No. 1," Maguire said. "In fact, it's the number one movie at drive-ins around the country this summer."

Because of COVID-19 health concerns, Maguire is reshaping BTG's already truncated live-performance summer season. She had been thinking about other programming possibilities. "I felt we needed to do something," Maguire said

It was one of her daughters who gave her the idea.

"She lives in New York and she mentioned that the city is showing drive-in movies at a site in Queens and everyone is going. She said 'you should do drive-in movies, mom,'" Maguire recalled with a laugh.

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"I first thought of projecting the movies on the wall of the Colonial Theatre but, when I looked hard, it didn't feel right."

A conversation with former Pittsfield city councilor Kathleen Amuso led to Taconic High School as a possible site.

Maguire said she discussed that idea with Pittsfield Superintendent of Schools Jake McCandless, who encouraged her.

"He said there'd be lots of people in the Berkshires this summer, parents, families looking for things to do. He thought this would be perfect," Maguire said.

Maguire said she also received support from Mayor Tyer. "We put this together on the advice and encouragement of a lot of good people."

Maguire said the idea of Sunrise Cinema Outdoors is to provide some relief from the stresses of the social, political and health issues facing Americans.

"We want to make sure we are doing everything in a safe way so people can relax, enjoy, forget about the world," she said.


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