Business Resources - Special Events - October 2018


During the summer, Ocean Breeze Waterpark stays open after sunset on Friday evenings to show movies on the wave pool. (Credit: Ocean Breeze Waterpark)

Water Parks After Dark

Evening events bring guests into water parks for special entertainment and experiences

by Susan Johnston Taylor

On Friday nights, visitors to Ocean Breeze Waterpark in Virginia Beach, Virginia, flock to the wave pool for second-run movies. Some munch on popcorn or slurp slushies in poolside cabanas they’ve reserved for the occasion, while others lounge on chairs or sit at the edge of the pool. 

Poolside movies have been a summertime tradition at the park for about a decade, says Myra Wood, director of marketing and sales at Ocean Breeze Waterpark. Friday evenings are free to season-pass holders, and other guests get into the park for a special price of $15.99 plus tax after 4 p.m. 

“We use radio stations to promote the fixed movie price at the beginning of the day, while commuters are hopefully still making evening plans,” Wood explains. 

Most of the movie selections are family-friendly, but Wood says Ocean Breeze Waterpark occasionally includes a throwback movie that might not appeal to kids. The park announces a few movies at a time, and “since we’re showing them every Friday, if one gets rained out, we reschedule it for the end of the season,” Wood says.  

Wood says the park offers concessions that tie into the movie. For instance, in anticipation of screening “Despicable Me 3,” it planned to offer a unicorn slushie and had Facebook fans weigh in on which flavors the slushie drink would include. 

“How can you make it more of a night out and fully embrace that movie theme?” Wood asks. “The candy store has movie theater box candy, and people purchase popcorn. It’s an opportunity to get some revenue.” 


On Thursday evenings during the summer, Cedar Point hosts “Dive-In Movies” in its “Breakwater Bay” wave pool. (Credit: Cedar Point)

Screening outdoor movies is subject to special rules, and movie studios have specific parameters around when you can or cannot name the film in marketing materials. Ocean Breeze Waterpark works with a licensing company called Swank. “They do a great job of making sure that we’re following licensing rules,” Wood says. 

Ocean Breeze Waterpark is one of several water or amusement parks branching out into evening events. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, hosts several evening offerings, including “Dive-In Movies” on Thursday nights.

“We keep it limited to pass holders and resort guests because we want that experience to be a good experience,” explains Kristy Bacni, Cedar Point’s events and ticketing manager. 

The water park closes at 6, 7, or 8 p.m. depending on the time of year, and the movie starts around 9 p.m. Bacni recommends knowing your audience and choosing theme-appropriate movies to draw a crowd. 

“Even though it’s an older movie, ‘Jaws’ is a big hit,” she says. “For Christmas in July, we’ve got ‘Elf’ playing. We try to make it fun and relevant.” 

Other events at Cedar Point include a “Brew and BBQ” event with more than 100 craft beers and five types of barbecue in the park’s FrontierTown attraction, as well as “Cedar Point Nights.” The latter is held nightly through the middle of August and includes five different zones: Chill Zone; Family Fun Zone with games on the beach; Glow Zone featuring large inflatable items; Silent Disco Zone, where guests dance to music on their own wireless headphones; and a Fire and Ice Zone presenting live music and special performances. “Cedar Point Nights” culminates in fireworks. 

Bacni says “Cedar Point Nights” uses the tagline “Hot Summer Fun…Cool Summer Nights” to play up the resort as a fun destination with something for everyone.  

Interns work with the special events team throughout the summer to set up for “Cedar Point Nights,” staff their zones during the event, and clean up afterward. 

“Glow items (like illuminated sofas and blocks to sit on) have to be charged every night. Inflatables get deflated and boxed up every night,” Bacni says. “We have setup starting at around 4 o’clock every day, and the event starts at 7.” 

Lighting can also be tricky with movies, which is one of the reasons that Ocean Breeze Waterpark screens movies in front of its wave pool. “It’s the best place in the park so lights aren’t shining on the screen,” Wood says. “That seems to be a challenge that parks face. With all the lighting you need to keep pools safe, it impacts the quality of the movie screen.” 

Despite some of the challenges evening events pose, Wood says it’s a win for the park. “This Friday night campaign gives us an attendance bump if the weather is in our favor,” she explains.

Susan Johnston Taylor is an Austin, Texas-based freelance writer who frequently covers small-business issues.