Once upon a time, when there was no karaoke and air-con, people beat the heat and boredom by going to the movies in a park. They'd grab a chair and fan and off they'd go. Now they're doing it again, writes Nie Xin.
What could be more perfect on a hot summer weekend night in the city than a free movie in the park? More than 60 parks all over Shanghai are showing what's hot - comedies, dramas and blockbusters - to beat the heat.
At 7:30pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September there is a showing of a film in each park. You could catch three free flicks a weekend.
Around 250 films will be shown. It beats paying at least 50 yuan (US$7.30) at the cinema. Some seating will be provided, but spectators should be prepared to stand or bring their own chairs.
For screening schedules, check the Website of the organizer, the Shanghai Greenery Administration Bureau.
Now in its fourth year, movies-in-the-park is a smash hit.
Last Friday night, around 5,000 people watched Wong Kar-wai's "My Blueberry Nights" in Shanghai Peace Park in Hongkou District; around 3,000 in Everbright Town Park in Zhabei District watched "Assembly."
The films to be shown include recent releases, such as comedies, martial arts, romance and action thrillers from China, Germany, Russia, the United States and elsewhere.
There was a smaller crowd in Huaihai Park for Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou's directorial debut, "The Secret That Cannot Be Told," winner of last year's Outstanding Taiwanese Film of the Year.
"It's the first time I watched an outdoor movie," says Xiao Chen, 30, a local office worker. "I wanted to know what it's like to watch a film in an open space because I only saw foreigners doing this in some Western movies."
Ni Jia, 24, watched with her boyfriend. "We were taking a walk after dinner and saw the outdoor screen. It looked interesting, so we stopped by."
At first she thought the films must be "very old and boring," but was pleased to find that many are recent.
If outdoor movies are fresh to many young people, it's a trip back in time to many older folks.
"We had outdoor films in the park when we were young," says 72-year-old Zhang. He and his wife took their small, low wooden chairs and cattail-leaf fans to Huaihai Park.
About 50 years ago, watching outdoor films was a big deal since there were not many entertainment choices. "It was more like a family activity: we went to the park after dinner with all the family members. Everybody took his small chair and fan," says Zhang.
At that time admission was 3 fen (less than 1 US cent) and the park entrance fee was about 5 fen. The average salary then was around 30 yuan (1 yuan equals 100 fen). Sometimes kids climbed trees to get a free look.
Today the screenings are well organized, audiences are well behaved and generally don't litter.
"Since outdoor screenings started in 2005, it has been a routine for us. We like it after dinner when the temperature has gone down. It's much better than watching TV at home," says Zhang's wife.
"Outdoor movies are intended for locals, including students on summer vacation and the elderly," says an official surnamed Kuai from the Shanghai Greenery Administration Bureau who is in charge of the outdoor movies.
"It's also good entertainment for those 'new Shanghaines' who move from other cities for work and don't have family or many friends here. They don't have many places to go and don't have a lot of money."
The bureau covers all the expenses, spending about 1,000 yuan on each movie, half for the film and half for the location,'' says Kuai.