These local resources put do-it-yourself screening parties at your fingertips


Even before Covid shut down all cinemas, upgrading your home theater setup as much as your space and budget allowed was becoming a hot trend. And now that the Omicron variant is fading away, many people feel more confident in hosting or attending social gatherings. We’re seeing a resurgence in ads for Super-Bowl snack trays and the like. Oscar-Night watch parties are probably already planned. The largest screen available has become the focal point of many parties.

What our collective fixation on the screen, big or small, says about modern society is a subject for a whole other essay. We’re here to contemplate a more celebratory question: why not make a movie screening – something brand new and highly anticipated in your geek circle, or a beloved old favorite – a centerpiece of your next social gathering, or even a big event like a wedding, graduation, or retirement party? And while you’re at it, why not transcend the confines of your home multimedia den and project the thing onto a cinema-sized screen?

There are several entities in the Mid-Hudson, both commercial and non-profit, which now makes it easier for you to do this. You can choose to bring your party to the cinema for a private indoor event or bring in the screen, projector and sound system, to be set up under the stars, in a tent or rental room. Read on to learn about three resources available for this purpose right now.

Cari and Chris Politylo, owners of the Hudson Valley Backyard Cinema.

Hudson Valley Backyard Cinema

A brand new local business that brings portable projection setups to private events, Hudson Valley Backyard Cinema is the latest brainchild of Kingstonians Kari and Chris Politylo. “We just launched about three weeks ago,” says Kari. “We know Rosendale Theater’s event rental business very well. We noticed a few backyard theater businesses in the southwestern parts of the United States and thought this might be a good fit for the Hudson Valley.

The couple have run Paramount Photo Booths since 2013, providing popular amenity that allows event attendees as well as hosts to return home with personalized memories of a special day. “We’ve had our photo booths everywhere, from basement birthday parties to weddings in private estates,” Kari writes.

Now Politylos are taking their event business to a new level, having acquired a 16ft inflatable screen, 1080P high definition projector, high quality audio system, Blu-Ray/DVD player, seats, outdoor lighting emphasis, popcorn and candy. concessions – all portable. “I expect it to be rented out for birthday parties, family movie nights, date nights, neighborhood get-togethers, etc.,” Kari says. “The good part about this idea is that it’s very pandemic friendly, given that it’s an outdoor activity.”

Backyard screening package prices range from $299 to $499, depending on what you want. There are additional travel charges for setups outside of a 30 mile radius of Kingston, and a $99 deposit required when you reserve a date. To learn more, visit

Upstate Movies

At the height of the pandemic, when movie theaters couldn’t open their doors to the public, their operators scrambled to find other ways to generate revenue. Not-for-profit movie theaters have been particularly hard hit, as most are too small to sell enough tickets to pay movie rental fees when patrons have to be seated in small, separate capsules.

Upstate Films’ two new directors, Jason Silverman and Paul Sturtz, “have figured out how to take the show on the road with outdoor screenings,” as they note on their website, They acquired their own portable projection system and spent much of the summer of 2021 showing Hollywood classics, cult films and even documentaries in places where audiences could safely congregate, often accompanied by music. live. The Hudson Valley Picture Show, as they dubbed the series, visited locations such as Opus 40, Old Rhinebeck Airfield, Del’s Roadside, the Maverick and Art Omi.

This cinematic roadshow is set to return in the summer of 2022, with Kaatsbaan among the new locations on the bill. It is also available for rental. “Since you cannot come to us, we will come to you. We’re delivering a 16-by-9-foot movie-sized image to our new screen using our high-powered portable projector, along with plenty of sound with a pair of powerful speakers and even pop- hot fresh corn with our mobile party popcorn maker! » Northern promises. “We are ready when you want to liven up a summer evening with socially distanced cinema under the stars.”

There’s more to the story than that, however. Even before the public health emergency, nonprofit film screening venues sought to diversify their revenue streams by making their theatrical screening spaces available for rental for private events. At times of the day when the regular filming schedule is not underway, Upstate Films will reserve the Starr Cinema in Rhinebeck and the Orpheum Theater in Saugerties for outside groups or individuals.

“We haven’t actively promoted it, but we do a few a month,” Sturtz says. “Quite often we have had birthday parties at the height of the pandemic. It’s a pretty popular thing.

The price of such a reservation varies widely, he says, with a base of $600 for Upstate Films members and $675 for non-members. The staffing of the theater is part of the cost, as well as the cost of renting the film. “We have to pay the exhibition rights. We can’t legally just show a movie to a large group of people without paying the distributor. »

To sweeten the deal, Upstate being a 501c3 organization, a portion of the event rental fee is tax deductible. According to Sturtz, they need about six weeks to secure theater space for an event. Contact him by email at [email protected] to inquire about availability.

Glenn and Dyana Warnock’s wedding included a horror movie screening at the Rosendale Theater.

Rosendale Theater

Another local option for renting theater space for a private celebration is offered by the Rosendale Theatre, another nonprofit that has struggled to stay afloat for an extended period without any revenue from ticket sales. .

What makes this space different, and particularly suitable for a wide range of events, is its splendid wooden stage, solidly rebuilt in 2015 with the aim of presenting live theatrical and musical performances all year round on non-cinematic evenings. . Lowering the movie screen adds the ability to use projected backdrops. And during the lull in operations necessitated by the pandemic, some of the seats in the front rows of the theater have been removed and replaced with a hardwood dance floor.

“People used our stage to get married. We have organized conferences, talks, panel discussions, band battle concerts by New Paltz Rock. Private schools have rented it to put on a play. Now that we have this dance floor, people can use it for dance, exercise and yoga classes,” says manager Carrie Wykoff. “If someone wants to rent it for a party, there could be a movie. We had quite a few memorial services where they showed slide shows. »

A couple who rented the Rosendale Theater to hold their wedding, Glenn and Dyana Warnock, shared a love of horror movies. “They showed their favorite horror movie to their friends and then got married,” Wykoff recalled. They then moved the entire wedding party next to the bell tower catering venue for the reception.

In the near future, it will become easier to add a beverage menu to an event in the theater itself, as the organization awaits New York State approval for a beer and wine license. week to week.

As with Upstate Films, prices for hosting a private event at the Rosendale Theater will vary depending on the resources needed, “how many hours, how much technical support they need, what time of day”, explains Wykoff. “If it’s a movie, they have to pay a license.” A one-time license fee can cost anywhere from $50 to $350 and more.

“If they own the rights to the film, it’s different circumstances. We had a woman who wanted to show her short film to her friends and the crew in the early afternoon. All expenses were covered, and it was not prohibitive.

To find out more about what the Rosendale Theater can offer in terms of screenings and other private events, to schedule a tour of the space, or to discuss costs, email Wykoff directly at [email protected]. Or come see a movie and check out the new tavern as soon as it opens.


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