WATERLOO – If you’re downtown on a Friday evening this spring and summer and catch the tantalizing aroma of popcorn wafting on a breeze, follow your nose to Cinema on the Cedar.
The RiverLoop Amphitheatre will be transformed into a movie theater under the stars for the film series, beginning with “Bohemian Rhapsody” on Friday. The movies are free and open to the public.
Gates open at 8 p.m. Movies begin at sunset.
A 39-foot inflatable screen will fill the canopy of the iconic steel-frame structure. Since its opening in 2012, the amphitheater has become a popular gathering place and venue for live performances with the Cedar River as a scenic backdrop.
Popcorn, snacks and beverages, including wine and beer, will be available for purchase. There will be crafts, activities and games for children, as well as Mark’s Park and splash pad.
The series grew out of a film showing at My Waterloo Days several years ago. “The reaction was so positive, and it was such a magical evening, and we found there was an audience who wanted to come down to the riverfront to watch movies,” said Kent Shankle, director of the Waterloo Center for the Arts.
The amphitheater is located adjacent to the Waterloo Center for the Arts along Cedar Street. There is seating for approximately 600 people and the area can accommodate crowds up to 1,000 people.
Last year, family-friendly movies attracted large audiences. “The feedback showed interest in a larger variety of offerings, so this year we’re presenting a mix of new and older releases. Yes, you can get these movies on Netflix, but it’s a completely different experience to share a movie with an audience, to hear the laughter, the gasps, the applause, than it is to sit at home,” Shankle explained.
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“Everyone comes together as a community, and there’s the added enjoyment of being outdoors near the river,” he said, that captures the essence and nostalgia of a drive-in movie theater.
Grants from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association and Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa provided funds to purchase the screen, sound system and other equipment and infrastructure necessary for the projection system. State Farm agent Shane Gardner is sponsoring this season’s series.
Cinema on the Cedar also will feature “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” in cooperation with My Waterloo Days, June 6; “Black Panther,” June 28; “The Greatest Showman” (sing-along version), July 19; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse,” Aug. 17 and “Kinky Boots,” in cooperation with Cedar Valley Pridefest, Aug. 22.
WCA also is sponsoring the popular RiverLoop Rhythms summer concert series at the amphitheater. Concerts are from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
On May 31, the Cedar Valley Big Band will perform jazz and swing, followed on June 14 with rock and blues featuring Bob Dorr’s Iowa Music Revue.
A big weekend is planned to celebrate America’s Independence Day. On July 5, Molly B. & The Jim Busta Band, featured on RFD-TV’s “Mollie B’s Polka Party,” will be on stage. The annual Mayor’s Fireworks Celebration is July 6, featuring the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra and the Brazilian 2Wins.
Fiesta! featuring Tropicante will perform July 13, with room for dancing. On July 26, Jimi “Prime Time” Smith will perform electric guitar blues, followed by Avey/Grouws Band and blues on Aug. 16.
Galactic Cowboy Orchestra will close the series Sept. 21 with bluegrass, rock and jazz fusion.
Concerts are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be available for purchase. The series is sponsored by Community Bank and Trust.