Free downtown movies in Chattanooga are a hit

Free downtown movies in Chattanooga are a hit

September 9th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in News

James Costa, left, director of "Lunch Hour," and Joshua Jorgensen, right, talk by the popcorn maker before the River City Co.'s movie screening in the empty gravel lot at 728 Market St. on Saturday. Costa's "Lunch Hour" was one of two movies shown Saturday night. The other was "E.T., the Extraterrestrial."

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.


When: 8:45 p.m. Saturday Sept. 22

Where: 725 Market St.

Movies: "Urbanized" and "Back to the Future"

Cost: Free

Ron and Jacqui Kaplan have lived in Chattanooga for about 50 years. That's around 2,608 Saturday nights -- and lots of different activities.

This Saturday night, the pair set up lawn chairs in the empty gravel lot at 728 Market St. to watch two free movies and eat free popcorn.

"I think it's really cool," Jacqui Kaplan said. "The notion of gathering a cross-section of the city to come out and mingle at an event like this is great."

The event, Movies at the 700 Block, turns the empty lot into an urban movie theater three Saturday nights this month.

Each night kicks off with a documentary and finishes with a classic popular movie. About 350 people attended last weekend's showing.

The River City Co. organized the series to showcase the location to potential developers, program manager Tiffanie Robinson said.

"It's prime for development, but we're not sure what we want to do with it yet," she said. "So we wanted to take it from being an ugly gravel lot and turn it into something fun until we figure out what we're going to do with it."

Saturday night started with the first-ever free public screening of "Lunch Hour" in the United States, organizers said. The documentary examines the national school lunch program, childhood obesity and unhealthy food, director and producer James Costa said.

He flew to Chattanooga for the screening and hopes his film will be a catalyst for change.

"Hopefully, viewers will think about it and on Monday morning they will go to their child's school and talk to the principals and say, 'What are you serving my child for lunch? Can I see it?' And if they show it and they don't like it, they'll say, 'Can you make this better?'"

"Lunch Hour" was followed by a screening of "E.T.: The Extraterrestrial."

The Kaplans said they came specifically to see "Lunch Hour."

"It was not in any of the rental boxes or Netflix, so we thought we'd come out to see it," Ron Kaplan said. "It's an important issue."

On Sept. 22, the films will include the documentary "Urbanized," which focuses on the design of cities, and "Back to the Future," a popular 1985 film.

Food trucks and beer are available in the lot, and Robinson encouraged people to arrive early to find a good spot.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at or 423-757-6476.