There's nothing wrong with a little rivalry, especially concerning things that don't really matter in the long run. So it goes with Little Rock and North Little Rock's free outdoor movie series, Movies in the Park and River Flicks, respectively. They're virtually the same, but if you want to tout one over another, here's our nitpicking glance at both of them.
Movies in the Park is decidedly on top when it comes to size and attendance. The Riverfest Amphitheatre is simply larger, and Movies in the Park has been around longer to build up a reputation that helps it bring thousands from far and wide. Plus, it's in the River Market, where it can pull in stragglers who were downtown anyway with nothing else to do. River Flicks doesn't have the same ease of access to wandering pedestrians, and the space, in a grassy amphitheater on the North Shore Riverwalk, isn't as big. It's packed, but with hundreds, not thousands.
The screen also appears to be slightly bigger at Movies in the Park. River Flicks boasts the brightness of its projector — 10,000 lumen — which is brighter than Movies in the Park's 6,000 lumen projector. The quality of sound is the same at both, though audiophiles might complain of subtle differences depending on whether they're watching something action-packed, relying on explosive sound effects, or a plain old romantic comedy.
Various genres of film are offered on both sides of the river, when it comes to what you want to see. Both have family-friendly lineups, but not so much so that stray college students might be repelled. Movies in the Park seems to cater to a broader crowd, and includes "Wedding Crashers," which, though slapstick, is perhaps a bit lewd for the same audience that would be delighted by "Kung Fu Panda." Also, River Flicks finishes earlier — July 8 — with the rescheduled showing of "The Blind Side." Movies in the Park continues until Aug. 4.
Expect on both sides, of course, the usual riffraff that show up at events tagged as "free" and "family-friendly." Movies in the Park gets a win — or loss depending on your perspective — for teen-agers engaging in PDA, while River Flicks is overrun with kids blindly wandering around with their phones out — sexting, no doubt. There are lots of wailing babies, too, but at least for the most part they stay put. And don't mind the loose children; both are popular spots for parents to drop them off when they need some alone time.
As far as concessions go, it's a tie. Golden Nugget Kettle Corn is enjoying a monopoly. They sell a large box of popcorn for $5 and a smaller one for $2, but you can bring your own snacks and beverages as well. With what could have been the clincher, both allow alcohol as long as it's not in a glass container. In other words, pre-game at The Flying Saucer and bring along a flask. River Flicks folks, it need not be said to remain vigilant around the cops.
For attendees not so involved in paying attention to the movie, River Flicks has one hard-to-beat bonus: a pretty nice view of the Little Rock skyline. At Movies in the Park the only distraction is traffic on the I-30 bridge.
So which will you attend? Both, if you're up for two outdoor movies in summer in Arkansas. Just don't forget about your Netflix subscription.
Movies in the Park is every Wednesday night at the amphitheater; seating begins at 6:30 p.m. and the movie starts after dark. River Flicks is every Thursday at dark at the North Shore Riverwalk, which opens at 7 p.m.