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Movies in the Park begins this week

ALBANY -- What's big, blue and will hang out by the river Friday night? Why a theatrically-sized Smurf, of course.

City officials will kickoff their seasonal "Movie in the Park" series Friday at 8 p.m. in Riverfront Park with the showing of Sony Pictures' "The Smurfs," Recreation and Parks Director Suzanne Davis said.

"It's something the city likes to do to promote family time downtown," Davis said. "It's free and open to the public."

According to the official Smurf website, the movie centers around the plight of the pint-sized blue creatures who are forced to flee their village when the evil wizard Gargamel comes for them and forces them through a portal that ends up in Central Park.

The movie stars Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays and Sofia Vergara.

Friday's showing is sponsored by the local non-profit group Open Arms in recognition of national Child Abuse Prevention month.

Next on the lineup is a football-inspired double feature hosted at the Civic Center by the Albany Panthers on May 26 starting at 7 p.m.

The Panthers will be showing "We are Marshall" and "Friday Night Lights."

On June 9 back at Riverfront Park, Sherwood Baptist Church will host a screening of their latest film, "Courageous" at 8 p.m. with cast from the film on hand.

Albany Recreation and Parks will host the final installment on July 21 with "The Muppets" at 8 p.m. at Riverfront Park.

All showings are free and open to the public.