Peggy O'Neil, Sharon Kienzle and Alishia Oliver from Canyonlands Natural History Association don Western gear to introduce the Moab Information Center's first outdoor movie “Stagecoach”. A free screening at the center's lawn at the corner of Main and Center streets will be held 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 23. [Courtesy Photo]

Friday night is movie night at the Moab Information Center. It’s hosting a free screening of “Stagecoach” at 8 p.m. on the lawn at the corner of Main and Center streets.

“The outdoor film is a great way for us to be apart of the community and spread our message for science and research,” said Alishia Oliver, from Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA), which manages the Moab Information Center.

The movie is free, but there will be refreshments available for purchase. In addition, there will be a drawing for two river trips from Adrift Adventures. Tickets are $1 a piece, or $5 for six tickets. All proceeds will go to the Canyonlands Natural History Association’s Discovery Pool Program to support science and research on the Colorado Plateau.

The Moab Information Center has an indoor theater, but the outdoor screening was chosen specifically for this movie.

“We hope that the environment created by an outdoor showing makes this event a relaxed and family friendly atmosphere, while celebrating our Wild West history and movies created using our natural and scenic landscape,” Oliver said.

“Stagecoach” was the first major movie filmed in the Moab area. It was also John Ford’s first “talkie” and the movie that launched John Wayne’s movie career.

The classic western is also the movie that served as the impetus to create the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission, which is the longest serving film commission in the world.

George White, whose ranch on the Colorado River was used for several John Ford movies, saw the need for a film commission when John Ford had expressed such interest in the Moab and Monument Valley areas.

With “Stagecoach” in 1939 and the filming of “Wagon Master” ten years later, White officially established the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission in 1949.

White’s Ranch is now the Red Cliffs Lodge, which hosts the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage. The self-guided museum at milemarker 14 on State Route 128 houses memorabilia from the early films to the present. It is open to the public daily at no charge.

This will be the only outdoor showing this year, but Oliver said that they hope to make this a more regular offering.

“Through donations and our prize drawing we hope to not only support the Discovery Pool, but also show three or four outdoor films next summer,” Oliver said.

Discovery Pool grants provide funding for scientists and public land partners to create educational programs; as well as projects that result in information that CNHA can use to publicize and help visitors understand the value and fragility of natural and cultural resources.