Melbourne, Australia: St. Kilda's Openair Cinema Hot Summer Location for Outdoor Flicks

Summer in Melbourne has become a different, friskier beast in recent years, writes Annabel Ross.

FOUND yourself stuck in town this summer while your mates are all away? Spending your holidays in the city needn't mean being cooped up indoors. Summer in the CBD has become a different beast in recent years, and it's possible to enjoy the ''great outdoors'' without so much as opening a Melway.

Tonight St Kilda's Openair Cinema kicks off its eight-week season, following in the footsteps of the wildly popular Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens and Rooftop Cinema at Curtin House, to give Melbourne filmgoers another alfresco option.

Perched atop the St Kilda Sea Baths, the Openair Cinema adds a dash of salty sea air to the outdoor film formula, which here also includes a bar serving food and cocktails and live music before the screening.

Film buffs can bring picnic food and non-alcoholic drinks. Beanbags and deckchairs are provided from 7.30pm, when live acoustic and DJ sets are played until the screening at sundown.

Seats are unreserved, so arrive early for a better chance of securing a good spot. Bring your own chairs and blankets.

Like Moonlight and Rooftop, the St Kilda cinema will screen a variety of new releases, classics and cult films, with this season's program includingВ Avatar andВ The Goonies.

Despite the fierce competition in Melbourne, the St Kilda cinema has been holding its own.

Openair's Ainslie Lenehan thinks the live music component of the evening helps set it apart from the rest.

''We needed to come in with something quite different to offer, and I think that's what makes us so successful,'' she says.

Also jumping on the alfresco bandwagon is the Melbourne International Film Festival, which is showing films free of charge on the big screen at Federation Square each week. Deckchairs are provided for the Thursday screenings under the stars, with a selection of MIFF favourites on the program for February.

The outdoors might be the new indoors for summer film-going, but you don't need to be watching a movie to enjoy the breeze on a balmy evening.

At the Emerald Peacock's ''Fiesta Sundays'', the glam bar adopts a more relaxed tone, with $10 pizzas, cocktails by the jug, and chilled-out music on the rooftop.

On the first Sunday of every month during summer, the Bouzy Rouge restaurant in Richmond is hosting ''Paella and Sangria Sundays'' in its sun-drenched courtyard, bringing a little of piece of Iberia to Melbourne.

More Sunday fun can be found at CBD bar Madame Brussels' ''rather fancy barbecues'', with food prepared by guest restaurants including Coda, Cumulus and Sydney's Icebergs.

''It's Icebergs comes to Bourke Street. BYO budgie smugglers,'' chortles Madame Brussels' Miss Pearls.

Bookings are essential as the Astroturf rooftop heaves from 2pm on Sundays until the end of April, with $40 buying you three courses and a glass of Madame Brussels' ''gay rosГ©''.

Even should the dancefloor beckon on a hot summer night, you needn't head into a sweaty club.

Inspired by the European tendency to spill on to the streets when the sun is shining, Joe Gannon returned to Melbourne from Amsterdam with the idea of taking the party outside during summer.

Under the name Flaner, he organises free live DJ sets at various outdoor venues in the city including Degraves Street and Federation Square.

Gannon says the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. ''At the Fed Square gig, we had people coming out from the surrounding bars and dancing, we had little kids dancing. At Degraves Street we had speakers set up on the dumpsters and it was more chilled out, but the feedback from both was really good.''

Perennially popular twilight markets also bask in the glow of daylight saving hours.

The Suzuki Night Market, now in its 12th year at the Queen Victoria Market, has more than 35 stalls of multicultural cuisine, licensed bars, live entertainment on three stages and some 150 vendors.

At the Queen Victoria Market's ''Summer Sunday Sessions'' on the first Sunday of each month until March, you can enjoy live local musicians in the beer garden and peruse the local designer market from 11am until 3pm.

The bohemian bayside charms of St Kilda are seen on Thursdays at the St Kilda Beach Night Market, where vintage clothing, arts and crafts are sold. Char-grilled corn and falafel can be eaten against a backdrop of bongo drums and fire twirlers.

The new Supper Market at the Abbotsford Convent kicked off in October and continues every Friday night until February 26. The historical grounds of the convent are home to hawker-style home cooking, live music and roaming circus performers as well as clothing, arts and crafts stalls.

Appealing to the more adventurous are the aerial workshops at the City Square, running four times daily between Saturday, January 23, and Sunday, February 7.

Expert instructors will guide wannabe circus performers through trapeze lessons, or you can leave it to the pros and watch their daily acrobatic show at 1.30pm.

The trapeze workshops are part of the City of Melbourne's Summer in the City program, which includes sunset concerts in the Fitzroy Gardens, Sunday morning jazz sessions on Lygon Street and the opportunity to learn cheesy dance moves from films includingВ Slumdog Millionaire andВ Dirty Dancing at Docklands on Saturday nights.

In addition to the MIFF deckchairs, Federation Square will run a range of outdoor events during summer.

The National Institute of Circus Arts will offer basic circus skills lessons in the Amphitheatre every Monday until March 22, while on Tuesdays the Urban Garden is converted into an outdoors pilates studio, with lunchtime classes until early March.

Provided that you keep your sangria intake to a minimum, The Humble Vintage bicycle hire company is the perfect way to flit around town on a sunny day. Matt Hurst's business rents out vintage bikes from three pick-up points - Fitzroy, St Kilda and the city. For $30 a day you get a helmet, a bike equipped with a lock and lights and a custom map and guide written by Hurst, filled with recommended cycling routes and pit stops.

''It's the best way to see the city,'' says Hurst. Make hay while the sun shines.

source- The Age

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