LEWISTON — It’s a question not often faced: What does one wear to the movie theater if the movie theater happens to be outside?

Nichole Doyle of Lewiston has it all figured out.

“My daughter asked, ‘What should I wear?'” she said. “I told her, ‘Put your PJs on. Let’s be comfortable.'”

It was a good call. The weather for the launch of the Lewiston Police Department’s Movie Night was not too hot, not too cool — just about right. It was a nice night for pajamas.

“I’m excited,” said Doyle, who was stretched out on a blanket at Marcotte Park while her four children played in the grass. “The kids can run around and have fun, the moms can relax.”

No one needed to explain that plan to the kids.

An hour before nightfall, a couple dozen people were already set up on blankets and in chairs in the sprawling park. Kids turned cartwheels and blew soap bubbles. With downtown Lewiston in the backdrop, a couple of boys threw a baseball back and forth while a group of girls sat in the grass and watched them. 

Their parents ate nachos, burgers, french fries and popcorn while the screen was set up near the middle of the park.

“We thought this would be good family fun,” said Laura Kopack, at Marcotte Park with her 9-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. “We like to go to a lot of community events. This one is free, so that didn’t hurt.”

Police officer Joe Philippon, one of the event’s organizers, was starting to look relaxed as the sun started to slip below the horizon. All day long, he’d fretted about the weather. For weeks, people had been talking about Movie Night. He wanted the first one to go well.

“The response has been amazing,” Philippon said. “People are telling (us) they’ve heard about Movie Night all over the place. They’ve been really anxious for it.”

You hate to see that kind of momentum washed away by wind, rain and cold, which lingered in the early part of the day.

Philippon’s fears were baseless, as it turns out. Come 5:30 p.m., the clouds had parted and the skies were blue. Food vendors began to roll into Marcotte Park in trucks and the smell of fried food soon followed. By the time it got going, there were more than 100 people in the park. 

A popping machine was set up and minutes later, it was filled with golden popcorn, free for the taking. It began to look and smell a lot like a movie theater in Marcotte Park — the only difference being that there were no walls, no ceiling, no cramped seats.

“I think it’s nice that the police are doing this,” Doyle said. “It’s good for the community.”

For the kids, it was a novelty: a chance to watch a movie without the confines of a traditional theater. For their parents — and for Philippon, too — there was also an element of nostalgia.

“I vaguely remember coming to this park when I was a kid,” the officer said. “My father would be playing softball and I’d be out on the playground. It’s cool coming back here.”

On Wednesday, it was “The Peanuts Movie.” Next week, police will be showing “Alvin & The Chipmunks” at Holy Family Field. On July 13, it will be “The Sandlot” at South Lewiston Ball Park.

Doyle said she’ll probably go to more of the Movie Night events as the summer progresses, although it will be hard to beat the convenience of this one. No long drive to the theater, no slow crawl out of a crowded parking spot.

“I can almost see my house from here,” she said, squinting toward the downtown as the sun set on Marcotte Park.

A few minutes later, the Peanuts gang appeared on the glowing screen and Movie Night was officially off the ground.

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