Grab your picnic blankets and head out to Reed Park for the upcoming Second Saturday Movie Nights free showing of Finding Nemo on Saturday, August 12 at 6 p.m.

Organized by Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont), the movie nights have been scheduled for the second Saturday of each summer month. July’s movie was the Princess Bride, August’s will be Finding Nemo, and September will finish it off with Toy Story. Along with the movie, free music, popcorn, and lemonade will be provided.

Second Saturday Movie Nights have become an annual occasion. One of the movie night coordinators, Wilmont Board Member John C. Smith said the movie night has progressed from one night to a series of three nights throughout the summer.

“We started doing it about five years ago. We just did one movie, one a summer. It was kind of the idea of Elizabeth Van Denburgh, she’s our chair of Wilmont. You know, and we thought okay, let’s put together a movie night. Then, last summer we decided that let’s make it three nights. Let’s do three of them, not just one. Let’s add some music to it. Last year was the first year that we did three,” said Smith.

Smith and Van Denburgh choose the movies with an abundance of thought and consideration, with the assistance of parents via Facebook.

Their first movie was the Princess Bride as the target audience was slightly older, and they needed to start playing the movie later at night because the sun sets later in July opposed to August or September.

Prior to the movie, live music is played. In the previous movie night in July, a band called The Wilmonts played. Initially starting out through the friendship between Smith and Lawrence Eubank (former Wilmont Chair and active resident), they realized their shared interest in guitar, and started playing together. Shortly thereafter, more players were added to the group.

“We get together and we practice a little bit, and we play some music ahead of the movie. So it’s like, a little bit of something for the adults and everybody,” said Smith.

The decision to program Reed Park was driven by a community desire to make the park more active and welcoming to neighborhood residents.

Smith said the philosophy is that when you bring in more locals and events to challenged parks, it becomes a better environment for visitors in the community.

“Reed Park has had a real issue with homelessness. The feeling is that the more active a park is, the better and the cleaner it is and the safer it becomes because more people show up. When certain elements, good elements show up at a park, it discourages others, you know, the parks that go in disrepair and go downhill are the ones that people don’t go to, and then they get taken over. It’s sort of like a sliding scale. It’s kind of like up and down,” said Smith.

The park has evolved over time with new amenities. It now houses tennis courts, the Miles Memorial Play House, basketball courts, picnic tables, a small playground, walking path and exercise equipment. Movie night will be held on the grassy central portion of the park that has also been home to seasonal concerts.

Smith said that Santa Monica is one small community and anyone is welcome for the movies, regardless of their neighborhood of residence.

“Well, you know, we’re all neighbors in the city, we’re all neighbors,” said Smith.

Santa Monica has seven recognized neighborhood associations (Friends of Sunset Park, North of Montana Association, Ocean Park Association, Pico Neighborhood Association, Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors, Santa Monica Northeast Neighbors and Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition). Each has its own set of priorities and Wilmont is currently focused on public safety, homelessness, development, and traffic.

“Why we exist is to make sure that people know what’s going on in the city, and make sure that we are a more informed neighborhood, and make sure that everyone can contribute. This is Wilmont’s way of contributing to a cleaner, safer, better city,” said Smith.

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Friday Night Movie:

Tonight, August 11, Santa Monica native Tony Todd will be starring in “Little Big League” alongside Ken Griffey Jr. at movie night in Virginia Ave. Park. Todd, who coached at Samohi in addition to his acting career, will be on hand to give away autographed MLB baseballs as well as baseball cards.

Maggie Marks, SMDP Intern