Drive-in theaters may be a thing of the past, but watching films outdoors is still au courant. And for the city of Ventura, it’s a way to bring the community together. That’s the hope, anyway.

On Sept. 15, the City of Ventura Cultural Affairs Division presents the first in a series of free, open-air movie screenings at various locations around town. The goal of Starlight Cinema, says cultural affairs supervisor Eric Wallner, is threefold: to utilize public space better; expand Ventura’s cultural district beyond downtown; and, most importantly, unite local residents beneath the banner of the arts.

“We were looking for new ways to reach out to the community and target families and younger people,” Wallner says. “We thought this was a really popular way to reach out.”

The picture chosen for the inaugural event at Plaza Park is appropriate in more ways than one: director Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer (1966). Considered “the granddaddy of all surfing documentaries,” it is the perfect choice for an area so deeply connected to surf culture, one which often does seem to experience a perpetual summer. It makes sense, too, considering the weekend marks the return of the Aloha Beach Festival at the Ventura Pier.

Other scheduled Starlight Cinema screenings include an informal sing-along to Grease at Barranca Vista Park on Oct. 6 and, the week of Halloween, the classic 1950s monster movie Creature from the Black Lagoon at Community Park. The films will be shown on a large rented screens. Refreshments will be available, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs.

Wallner says if the public embraces these events, more showings will be added.

“All arts have the potential to build civic engagement. Our main interest is how to get people involved in the community,” he says. “The films, in different ways, all speak to something about the community that’s distinctive.”