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Saturday, January 23, 2021

The history of the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema

The arrival of summer marks the 18th year of the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema showcasing classic movies and entertainment on the Village Green. What many people don’t know, however, is that 15 years ago, after the summer of 2002, the movies nearly stopped altogether.

The Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema is currently run in conjunction by Epic Events and Promotions and the Historic Fairhaven Association, the latter renting the Village Green and the former providing the entertainment, equipment and movie screenings. However, it wasn’t always this way, according to John Servais, a retired member of the Historic Fairhaven Association and former member of its board of directors.

Servais helped to organize the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema with help from the Pickford Film Center during the early days of the outdoor movie screenings in Fairhaven.

“The Pickford Theater decided to try starting some outdoor movies on the Village Green in the summer of 2000, and they were a huge success,” Servais said.

Due to their success in the Fairhaven community, the Pickford continued to show movies in the summers of 2001 and 2002.

However, in 2002, the Outdoor Cinema hit its breaking point, which ended in the Pickford choosing to no longer play movies there. Servais took it upon himself to screen movies at the Village Green for a year after disagreements between those invested in the construction of the new Village Green and members of the Pickford Film Center.

Servais claimed that the Pickford was concerned about the ongoing and somewhat controversial construction of the Village Green, which wasn’t fully constructed when the films began screening in 2000.

“If you’ve watched movies [at the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema] it’s offset from the screen,” Servais said. “The center of the Green is about, I don’t know, 15 feet to the right of the center of the screen.”

Servais said that the members of the Pickford thought that the Village Green should be directly centered on the outdoor movie screen.

The Village Green did not finish construction until April of 2003, months after members of the Pickford brought attention to the fact that they would no longer be putting on the outdoor movies there

“There I am, watching the last movie of 2000, when the executive director of the Pickford says ‘John, we are not going to be doing these anymore,’” Servais said.

Servais did not want to see the outdoor movies fade and die out, so in 2003, he decided to bring to the Historic Fairhaven Associations’ attention that there would no longer be movies on the Village Green. At this time, Servais had already gone out on a limb and reserved the space for the summer days of 2003.

When he asked the board of directors about what should be done with the space, they had one thing on their minds: movies.

Servais was able to keep the movies going throughout the summer of 2003. He rented his own movies and played them on the Village Green with help from the Historic Fairhaven Association, but the task proved to be quite the challenge for Servais.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Servais met Doug Borneman, the owner and operator of Epic Events and Promotions. This is when the outdoor films in Fairhaven really began to evolve into what we see today.

“I started my business in 2000 in the Seattle area and started doing outdoor movies in 2002,” Borneman said.

Apart from operating the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema in the summer, Borneman and his company also operate large-scale movie events at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Magnuson Park in Seattle and Riverfront Park in Spokane.

“When I returned to Bellingham, because I grew up here, I reached out to find out what was going on with the outdoor movies and connected with John, who had ran them for a year with the [Historic] Fairhaven Association,” Borneman said. “[I] basically offered my services to get involved since we have infrastructure and do a lot more of that sort of thing. John and I worked together in 2004 to put it on, and pretty much I took the reins from there.

Currently, the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema can bring anywhere from 400 to 700 people to the Village Green on Saturday nights.

“It’s one of those things that you just want to keep it simple… to make it really fun and easy every time making it so that people can come down and relax and enjoy the movie,” Servais said.

Borneman said that he will continue to do the movies as long as everyone is enjoying it.

“It’s something the community seems to love, and we like doing it,” Borneman said.

Fast forward to June 24, the opening day for the 2017 Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema series, which showcased the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie preceded by a visit from several members of the Seattle Seahawks on their 12’s tour.

Senior Jack Nguyen, an environmental studies major, had the chance to experience the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema for the first time that day. “It was pretty fun, I went out and got some food beforehand and then I just really enjoyed the movie,” Nguyen said. “It’s something we need, something that everyone needs once in while.”

For more information about the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema and Epic Events and Promotions, call (360) 733-2682 or visit www.epiceap.com.

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