FUMC builds drive-in theater

Published 3:26 pm Thursday, October 20, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

On a recent Friday night, employees at Alabaster’s First United Methodist Church transformed the parking lot of the church’s Restore building into a scene from America’s past.

FUMC Pastor Brian Erickson and a few other church volunteers hand-built a 10-by-20-foot movie screen and displayed the movie “Cars” for more than 50 spectators Oct. 14 in the parking lot of Restore, which used to be a Winn-Dixie grocery store.

The church members also made a low-power FM transmitter to broadcast the movie’s audio directly to the cars in the parking lot.

“The weather feels so great during October, and now we have this huge parking lot,” Erickson said. “We asked ourselves ‘How do we use this space to better provide something for the families in our community?’”

After Erickson and his colleagues came up with the idea to show drive-in movies at the church, they searched online for screen and FM transmitter blueprints and were able to order kits to construct both.

“We sort of got all the pieces and put them together. Honestly, I was scared something wasn’t going to work right,” Erickson said. “We got the last electrical fitting for the screen on Thursday night before the Friday movie.

“I was also concerned because that screen was basically a big sail sitting out there in the parking lot,” Erickson added with a laugh. “But it was an absolutely perfect night.”

During the free movie, the church served hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and popcorn from the inside of the Restore building.

Because the event drew many people who do not regularly attend the church ¬– including some visitors from other parts of the state – Erickson said he is looking to make drive-in movies a regular outreach event.

“I think a lot of churches feel this way, but we are trying to focus on how we can be a blessing for those outside the church,” Erickson said. “We are excited about it. We are thinking about doing a Polar Express night where we show the movie and get all the kids to wear their PJs.”

For updates about future drive-in movies at the church, visit Alabasterfumc.com.