Summer is here, and you know what that means: outdoor movies. I must admit, however, that I usually like the idea of outdoor movies better than the execution. With the drop in price of portable video projectors and the hype around the quality of DVDs (it's still a compressed format), anyone can take over a parking lot and charge people admission to bring a chair and watch a rented flick with a bunch of strangers. The upside is that when stealing public showings of rented movies, specialized themes are easier to come by. And it's safe, as the MPAA is more concerned with stopping DVD piracy than illegal presentations to small groups... at least for now.
Some places do have "value added" features that they bring to their screenings. I haven't been to the Fremont Outdoor Movies in a few years, but this week they're giving you something that you can't get at home. For their Alien Invasion Night, they're bringing the funny folks from Jet City Improv to apply their Twisted Flicks treatment to the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. What that means is they will have actors improv new dialog over the original. Having just seen the movie in preparation for the Spielberg extravaganza, I must admit that this sometimes slow-moving special-effects extravaganza can use a bit of help now and again.
What I like about the Summer Movie Madness at Linda's goes beyond the fact that there's a waitress there bringing me more beer. Jon Behrens, the guy who's been running these things for years, shows everything off of 16mm film. There's something soothing about the sound of sprockets passing through the projector, and the selection ranges from the campy to the commercial—and by that I mean he has programs of old commercials, plus old industrial films, that he sometimes brings out. This Wednesday, July 6, is his "surprise night" where nobody knows what's going to screen, even Jon.
Elsewhere, Georgetown Records (1201 S Vale St at Airport Way) has a slate of programs that I assume is outdoors because they encourage people to bring their own chairs. This week it's Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll, Pt. I, playing a double feature of Rock 'n' Roll High School and This Is Spinal Tap on Friday night, July 1, starting at 10:00 p.m. I'm sure there's plenty more of these outdoor cinemas happening, from Woodinville to West Seattle. They can be fun as a social event, but a pale substitution for heading to a drive-in and watching a movie in glorious 35mm.
Quick note: I want to remind every filmmaker out there that the deadline for submissions for this fall's Local Sightings is July 11. This is the annual collection of locally made films that screens every year at the Northwest Film Forum. Surely you have a copy of your latest masterpiece on VHS or DVD. Send it on in. There's no entry fee, which means there's no excuse. ■