Cinematic summer: 5 quirky alternatives to the cineplex
What makes a really good summer movie?
That depends on whom you ask.
For some, it's a special-effects-laden blockbuster, for others light-hearted romantic comedy.
But no matter the flavor of that favorite summer flick, it always tastes sweeter when it's dished out in a fun, interesting environment.
Local cinephiles are in luck; there are a number of quirky and creative ways to see flicks this summer in Boulder and beyond, from the Boulder Outdoor Cinema to the music-and-a-band Film on the Rocks series.
BOULDER OUTDOOR CINEMA
When it comes to summer venues, it's hard to beat the classic cool of the open-air drive-in movie experience. For 13 years, Boulder Outdoor Cinema has been screening films in the back lot of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, recreating the drive-in experience sans the car and the rusty metal speaker attached to your window.
The series opens its 14th season Saturday night with a showing of the comedy classic "Airplane!"
"It's a really good movie to kick off the season," says Jeanine Fritz, manager of Boulder Outdoor Cinema and production manager of the larger Outdoor Cinema Network, which produces outdoor film events throughout the state. Fritz also is the Camera's movie critic.
The Boulder Outdoor Cinema is paring down its schedule this year, only showing films on Saturdays to cut down on expenses, an important move as the film series has struggled to keep going in recent years. An outpouring of support from loyal film buffs last year -- about 200 people per show on average -- kept the series afloat for a 14th season.
"Last year, when we said this is probably our last year -- for budgetary reasons, we were barely breaking even -- the community response was, 'No, don't go,'" Fritz says. "We've become an institution. This has become one of those fun, quirky things that is quintessentially Boulder."
The event has returned with a 12-week summer lineup, including comedy classics such as "Ghostbusters" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and dark delights including "Evil Dead II" and "Grindhouse."
Cult favorites are also on the bill, including "Office Space," "Yellow Submarine" and "Princess Bride," alongside new releases like "Wall E," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "High School Musical 3."
The movies are nice, but the true thrill of outdoor cinema is the environment, Fritz says. Each event will feature off-screen programming, such as live music, trivia and costume contests. Concessions are available, and viewers get to bring their own furniture. Blankets, low-back chairs and beanbags are recommended, but couches and other home furnishings are always welcome.
Films show on Saturdays through Aug. 29 with a suggested $5 donation. The complete schedule is available at www.boulderoutdoorcinema.com.
BEAT THE HEAT FILM SERIES
This summer also sees the launch of a new Boulder film program, the Boulder Theater's Beat the Heat Film Series. The goal, says publicist Sarah Coffield, is to recreate the drive-in experience at an indoor, air-conditioned venue.
"People can bring blankets and their camping chairs and whatnot," she says.
Adding to the drive-in experience is an outdoor grill that will be fired up an hour before showtime, so viewers can enjoy classic concessions such as hot dogs and hamburgers, not to mention cold beer. Twisted Pine pints will go for $3 a pour.
"We wanted to have a drive-in theater: You have the grilling, you've got the big screen and all these nostalgic films you want to see on the big screen again," Coffield says.
Films will be shown twice a month on Mondays or Tuesdays, with six films total in the series, and visitors to Boulder Theater's Web site got to help program Beat the Heat via online voting.
As of press time, the official schedule hasn't been released, but winning films include "Caddyshack," "Fight Club" and "Heathers."
"I think summer films, they're not the new hot releases. They're the things you've seen a thousand times," Coffield says. "To see them again on the big screen, that's the nostalgia."
For the complete schedule when it's released, visit www.bouldertheater.com.
BOULDER PUBLIC LIBRARY FILM PROGRAM
Other summer film programming in Boulder is more culture than cult, such as the Boulder Public Library Film Program directed by Joel Haertling.
The summer series kicked off in May and shows films on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays through July. With more than 20 films on the bill, the library has perhaps the largest and most diverse program running.
"I don't just do whatever's new or cult," Haertling says.
He will be screening films from as far back as 1929, including numerous documentaries and rarities and even a night of public service films on June 25, featuring educational shorts that headlined high-school assemblies of yesteryear.
Two of the featured public service films -- "Pour Judgment" and "A Snort History" -- were shot in the Denver area, and the latter features animation by revered political cartoonist Pat Oliphant.
Haertling has built a number of mini-series into the program, including a celebration of Boulder's sesquicentennial with films on Glenn Miller, Tom Horn and one of Haertling's own films, a documentary about his father, local architect Charles Haertling.
Other series include 3-D films of the 1950s, such as "Creature from the Black Lagoon"; a local filmmaker's showcase, which includes the pilot of an educational science film series titled "The Adventures of Dr. Tompkins"; and films by author/screenwriter Terry Southern, including "Easy Rider," "Barbarella" and "Dr. Strangelove," which kicked off the series on May 18.
The screenings take place inside the Canyon Theater at the Boulder Public Library's main branch. All films are free and open to the public, and the complete schedule is available at www.boulder.lib.co.us/events/films.html.
CHAUTAUQUA SILENT FILM SERIES
Think the drive-in movie experience is retro? It doesn't get much more retro than the Chautauqua Silent Film Series, running this Wednesday through Sept. 16.
Celebrating the early days of cinema, the 10-film program includes Buster Keaton in "Steamboat Bill Jr.," an evening of Charlie Chaplin shorts, and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Hank Troy provides piano accompaniment for most of the films with the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra filling in for two nights.
Screenings are $8 ($4 for Colorado Chautauqua Association members) and take place at Chautauqua Auditorium. The full lineup is online at www.chautauqua.com.
FLIM ON THE ROCKS
Finally, if you're looking for the world's most majestic movie experience, look no further than Film on the Rocks, a program mixing live music and movies at the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Entering its 10th anniversary season, this year's lineup kicks off June 16 and includes pairing of "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" and Ben Lee, "Office Space" and Gregory Alan Isakov, and "Top Gun" and Paper bird.
The full schedule is at www.denverfilm.org.
By Vince Darcangelo