'Every year, we spring at least one couple in the bushes," says Moonlight Cinema's Jillian Bowen. "But this isn't surprising. Moonlight does tend to promote amorous activity between people." This Sunday, it could also result in some canine canoodling, thanks to a pooch-friendly outdoor movie screening of the PG-rated comedy Hotel for Dogs.
"My dogs will probably be in the bushes," Bowen says. "Actually, I suspect there will be quite a few doggie hook-ups, but I take no responsibility for any resultant litters."
Moonlight first hosted a bring-your-dog outdoor cinema session five years ago, and more than 500 pooches and their owners attended. "Contrary to what you would think, the dogs were remarkably well-behaved. They're pretty canny creatures. They all seemed to scope it out when they arrived and went, 'Yeah, actually, I might just keep to myself.' It was amazing to see 500 dogs sitting on their picnic rugs. Often, they behave better than our human patrons."
Your average dog is unlikely to sit quietly when surrounded by hundreds of other dogs in the Botanic Gardens. But those who visit the outdoor movies at Moonlight are not average dogs. Rather, they are the substitute children of professional, 30-something couples the sort of pooches that have diamante-studded collars, cedar dog houses and their own Facebook profiles. They are also well-trained, immaculately groomed and accustomed to going everywhere with their owners.
"You do see some really spoilt dogs," Bowen says. "I'm just waiting for someone to turn up with their pooch in a pram. But generally, the dogs are very well socialised and are used to being in these kinds of environments."
Still, there are rules for the outdoor cinema screening. All pets must be on a leash no longer than two metres. Chocolate and macadamia nuts, both toxic to dogs, are banned. So are aggressive breeds and those that require a muzzle. Everyone, of course, must clean up their mutt's mess. And each dog must have its own adult supervisor.
Bowen, who has two samoyeds, has enlisted actor Matthew Newton to look after one of them. "As much as I'd love to bend the rules for myself, it doesn't seem fair," she says. "And Matthew absolutely adores dogs."
Sigrid Thornton and her labradoodles, Billie and Baz, will also be at the outdoor movie, albeit in a fenced-off VIP (and VID) area. But even the celebrity guests will be asked to leave if their pets misbehave.
"The point is to just have a good time. This is not a serious cinematic experience, which is why we're not showing something like The Godfather. There is going to be a bit more noise than usual. (Pyjama designer) Peter Alexander, for example, bought his dogs a couple of weeks ago and they were gorgeous, but they could hear the possums in the trees and they started barking." Or perhaps they were just bored by the movie?
"As much as we like to think our dogs will enjoy the film, they're actually incapable of watching images on a screen. They can only see in 2D and in black and white, so to them it appears as blobs of movement. They simply won't respond to an image of a dog, no matter how large it is. But they will get excited if they hear a dog barking."
These dog-friendly outdoor film screenings are the creation of Moonlight founder and former owner James Tutton. There was nothing complicated about his idea he simply likes outdoor cinema and dogs, so he decided to combine the two. Even so, Bowen admits that non-dog-lovers are bemused by the concept.
"They tend to raise their eyebrow and go, 'Are you mad?' " she says. "But dog owners just get it. I certainly get it. Then again, my dogs go to doggie day care, so what can I say?"
She pauses, rethinking her words. "I probably should clarify that last statement so I don't seem like a complete loser. They go to day care because I'm renovating."
Despite the popularity of Moonlight Cinema's outdoor movies among the double-income-no-kids crowd, Bowen says it attracts all sorts of people: families, retirees, teenagers and singles.
Given the tendency of pets to act as catalysts for romance at least in movies starring Meg Ryan or Jennifer Aniston will Bowen promote this session as a kind of outdoor singles bar?
"Everyone keeps telling me that dogs are a great way to meet potential partners," she says. "Except I just keep meeting girls, which doesn't really work for me. But if there are some smart boys out there, and they're looking for a lady with a dog, they should come along. I think they'll find that they do very well for themselves."
Source: "Best in show" by Michael Lallo- The Age. Read full article at: http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/film/best-in-show/2009/01/07/1231004104078.html