A night at the movies. In the middle of downtown. No theater required. What better way to take advantage of downtown's public space, festival-friendly weather and the worst time of year for television programming than a summer outdoor movie series? More than a people magnet, such a happening can improve how people relate to downtown.
People rediscover the pleasure of coming downtown on a Friday evening, says Sally Bates, business and economic development officer with the City of Bangor, ME (pop. 31,470). For the third summer, downtown Bangor's Pickering Square is the site of a free weekly outdoor film series produced by River City Cinema
, a local film society.
On a Friday summer movie evening, the square is packed with people from all walks of life and all ages, Bates says; a welcome change from the narrower range of people who'd otherwise hang out aimlessly.
It really brings the community together. We get people anywhere from 7 to 97 coming to these, concurs Kathlyn Tenga-Gonzalez, artistic director, River City Cinema. It's just amazing to see the diversity of people that attend this. It's particularly wonderful to see younger people watching older films on a big screen. They really enjoy it.
Downtown eateries realize a direct consumer spending benefit from the movie series, Bates says. What's more, downtown users have come to appreciate the acoustics and convenience of the square as a public gathering space. Prior to the movie series we thought the square needed some major and expensive landscaping changes. Now we realize that it is already ideal for this type of activity, she says.
Each Summer A New Outdoor Movie Night Theme
In the summer of 2004, River City Cinema produced its first free outdoor film festival, dubbed Noir Beneath the Stars. Nine sponsors made it possible for a nightly audience of over 350 to turn out with their lawn chairs or blankets and enjoy six weekly film noir classics.
Last summer, Smiles on a Summer Night was the title for a comedy outdoor film series. This year travel is the theme and the title, If It's Friday, This Must Be Bangor, plays upon a phrase people who have been on whirlwind travel itineraries, especially in Europe, would be familiar with. The films feature travel around the world in the context of various storytelling genres even sci-fi travel inside the human body in Fantastic Voyage
Among attendees as well as sponsors, excitement about the summer outdoor movie series has remained strong, with 11 sponsors and crowds of 400-plus turning out last year.
Don't Shy Away from Challenging Fare
You should never underestimate people's interest in alternative films. And by alternative, I mean world cinema, independent film, Bates adds as a last point on programming. It seems to me that the ideal film series for a downtown would represent some diversity diversity of worldview, subject matter, and of tone.
Even if all the outdoor movies you show are in English, Tenga-Gonzalez adds, You might want subtitles. We play our films with subtitles for those who are hard of hearing or deaf. Subtitles are also a helpful backup for dialogue amid the noises that go along with being outside in downtown.
River City Cinema's outdoor movie series' have been a popular tradition for years, and they show no signs of stopping. Visit the official website for information on coming outdoor film events!
Source: River City Cinema official website: http://rivercitycinema.com/AboutRCC.html