While the newest Harry Potter movie was shown in the most cutting-edge digital theaters around the US, an open-air theater also attracted hundreds of people to a small park in downtown Columbia, South Carolina to watch outdoor movies.
I'm not talking about a drive-in theater, but a real outdoor cinema. No roof, no chairs, no lights. Everybody sits on the lawn, facing a medium size screen set up temporarily, with a couple of huge speakers on each of its sides. Every Friday evening, when the last sun light disappears, the outdoor movie starts. The show is free, sponsored by a local church in the summer months, and it has become a favorite Friday night activity since last summer.
Watching outdoor movies used to be popular around China, both in cities and rural villages, at a time when movie theaters were still rare. I remember going to such movies with my parents as a little girl, which were usually shown on an outdoor basketball court in the university campus where my parents worked. The screen was just a huge white cloth, decorated by a few small holes, hung from trees or poles or whatever agents available.
I was too young to understand the movies, but was truly impressed by the crowds. Once the movie was over, people stood up in the bitter darkness, with a small stoolmostly wooden, plastic ones were not widely available yetin everyone's hand, grandma or young kid, student or professor. Everyone was surrounded by many others, and it was hard to move. It took a long time for the crowd to disperse to different directions, when everybody finally made the way home.
While outdoor movies were pretty much a cheap entertainment in China, those in today's United States are more about outdoor fun and family activity, although sometimes such movie shows are as cheap as free. People bring their kids, along with a bunch of lawn chairs, plenty of blankets to sit and lie down on the lawn, and sometimes picnic basket to enjoy a good meal before the movie starts.
The park is beautiful and the air is cool and nice at summer night. But there is one thing troublesome, the weather. Columbia in July and August is constantly under thunderstorm threat and rains often in the evening. One evening the movie just started when it started to down pour. Another day saw people hurry to pack up and leave in the middle of the show because the lightening and thunder were getting closer and closer. There were still other times when we had to give up the plan to go all together simply because we felt tired of guessing the rain chance.
But whenever we went down there, it was always fun and refreshing. I just hope that next week we don't have to watch the sky all the time.