The Lake Meredith National Recreation Area has turned to the Silver Screen to attract more guests to the Fritch Fortress Amphitheater.
The national park’s newest entertainment initiative, “Movies at the Lake,” showcases the natural beauty of the amphitheater and is something officials hope will help spur even more activity there.
“It’s pretty impressive,” said Tim Cruze, chief of interpretation, education and visitors services at Lake Meredith and Alibates Flint Quarries. “It’s a beautiful setting. The sunsets here are tremendous.”
And, like any new venture, it wasn’t without its opening-night hiccups.
“Movies at the Lake” was scheduled to begin May 27 with the first of four movies, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” at the amphitheater, but because of a storm bellowing with 40 to 50 mph winds amid the lake, the showing was rescheduled for the following day.
“We had a very large crowd — close to about 500 people,” Cruze said. “Everybody was having a good time, everybody had gotten their snacks and we started the movie. Within 10 minutes, a storm that had been on the perimeter — it wasn’t raining in the area — but it caused a high wind to come up the valley here.”
Families who had brought their lawn chairs and blankets to sit on at the amphitheater, which seats about 1,200, were told to come back the next day for a redo.
On the rescheduled showing for the “Star Wars” film, about 500 people watched the movie with “perfect weather,” Cruze said.
“The wind was better and people just loved it,” Cruze said. “You don’t see stuff like this hardly anymore.”
With a backdrop of the lake, a darkened sky and a valley, Cruze said the movie series are family events hosted by Lake Meredith, in conjunction with Project Fritch America and the Friends of Lake Meredith and Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.
The showings are free and people can purchase snacks such as popcorn, candy and beverages at the Snack Shack.
Cruze said they purchased a high-dollar LED projector, a large screen, speakers and more. He plans to continue to upgrade the amphitheater to breathe more life into it.
On July 2, the original “Independence Day” will show at the lake at 9:30 p.m., and the 2017 Lake Meredith Fireworks Show will make its way for its second year at 10 p.m. July 3. Cruze is looking into having live music playing at the amphitheater during the fireworks show, which returned last year for the first time since 1999,
Lake Meredith hosted fireworks at the lake with about 55,000 visitors in 2016. Cruze said the positive feedback from the fireworks at the lake showed them that “this could work,” meaning the amphitheater, and other facilities, could be used more to attract more visitors.
“We want folks to come out here and have a good time,” Cruze said. “The national park is for them. I hope they get a better appreciation of their national park, because it is their national park, and it provides clean, fun, family time.”
The film “Moana” is set to show Aug. 5 at 9 p.m. and “Beauty and the Beast” will show Sept. 2 at 8:30 p.m.
As more success of the summer events washes ashore, Cruze said he hopes to have live bands, lectures from local colleges and more at the amphitheater.
“It’s kind of limitless of what we can do,” Cruze said. “This is nice, if we continue to work, this is something we can continue to do. It would be awesome to have more events.”