Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center is bringing the silver screen to Gardiner’s public park along the Kennebec River.

The downtown arts organization will host a series of free outdoor movies at the Waterfront Park starting Aug. 8 with the animated comedy “Despicable Me 2” and concluding Aug. 22 with the 1952 musical “Singin’ in the Rain.”

The second movie, the popular 1980s film “Back to the Future,” will be shown Aug. 16. Both the outdoor movie series and the ongoing outdoor concert series at the waterfront, the last show of which is scheduled for Aug. 21, were ideas that emerged during the two-year community planning project that concluded at the start of this year. The events are being funded with the help of a $3,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation, which funded Heart & Soul, a citywide planning project, with a $100,000 grant. Heart & Soul participants helped draft the city’s comprehensive plan, which is awaiting the City Council’s approval.

“Johnson Hall, being sort of the purveyor of entertainment in the area, we snagged both of those,” said Mike Miclon, Johnson Hall’s executive director.

The movie and concert series also are being funded with another $3,000 from local sponsors and in-kind support, he said.

Miclon said the group would like to host the events in future summers, but that will depend on their popularity and whether Johnson Hall can secure the necessary funding. The first two outdoor concerts have been well attended, he said, with around 200 to 250 people at each.

The film showings are scheduled to start at 8:30 pm, but the starts could be later, depending on the light conditions. The showings will be moved to Johnson Hall at 280 Water St. if it rains.

Miclon said the waterfront shows are part of several events leading up to the theater’s 150th anniversary. Johnson Hall first opened as an opera house in 1864.

The performing arts organization that runs the theater is in the early stages of renovating the venue’s second and third floors. It held two cleaning days earlier this year, clearing out around 15 tons of debris from the upper floors.

Renovating the entire building and opening up the potentially 400-seat theater on the third floor has always been the goal of the organization, which formed in 1987. Miclon told the Kennebec Journal in May he and the arts organization plan to open the third-floor theater within five years.

They’ll be giving a preview of the space to the public in September, with plans to hold four performances on the third floor on Sept. 20. The short shows will be presented for groups of 50 or less, and the organization will be conducting tours of the space before that, Miclon said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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