Pass the popcorn

Movies in the Park showcase classic comedies, steamy romance and a familiar alien

It’s time for that month again. Sweltering temperatures, scorching sun and blistered skin all mark the start of July. After a long, hot week on your feet—spent marveling at the sheer talent of the capable artists showcased in Artown, no doubt—Friday Movies in the Park offer the perfect opportunity to sit the kids down, cool off, kick back and relax.

Movie screenings in Wingfield Park became a part of the Artown tradition in 1997, the second year of the festival, as a tribute to the art of cinematography. Originally, each flick was shown on 16mm film, but over the years the film and equipment have become more expensive and harder to find, forcing a transition from true film to DVD projectors. Though the grainy goodness that makes film so film-esque will have to be sacrificed, DVD projection is necessary to meet the demands of the Artown audience.

According to Tim Jones, Artown co-founder and producer of Movies in the Park, movies are chosen based on variety and relevance (Moonstruck was shown on a full moon night, and a scary movie double feature once paid tribute to Friday the 13th). Generally, the movies are appropriate for a family audience, staying in the G to PG-13 range. However, in the past 15 years, there have been a few R-rated exceptions, including Billy Elliot. This year’s lineup includes a family film, a comedy, a romance and a musical.

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

Spielberg hit starring a lonely boy and an alien that used to look real will screen this year in honor of its 30th anniversary. Although today we would probably expect E.T.’s spaceship to look more like something straight out of the Apple factory than a flying teardrop, the film remains a timeless classic about boyhood friendship. July 6, 9-11:15 p.m. (PG)

A Night at the Opera With the Marx brothers, everything is a joke. Zeppo Marx, however, must have grown bored with the humor. A Night at the Opera is the first Marx Brothers film starring only three of the infamous quartet—Zeppo left the crew to become a stage engineer and subsequently a multi-millionaire. “We’re twice as funny without Zeppo,” Groucho Marx is reported to have said, and evidently he was right. A Night at the Opera is rated as the 12th funniest movie of all time by the American Film Institute. July 13, 9-11 p.m. (G)

Strictly Ballroom

The debut film of the director who brought us the masterpiece of Moulin Rouge, and a tragically comedic rendition of Romeo and Juliet (yes, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio sporting Tommy Bahama), Strictly Ballroom is filled to the brim with hot moves and raging young romance. Though Strictly Ballroom is often compared to Dirty Dancing, its satirical nature makes the film more of a comedy than a dramatic romance. Don’t spin in your grave, Patrick Swayze—your spot in the heartthrob hall of fame is safe for now. July 20, 9-11 p.m. (PG)

Grease

What better way to round up Artown’s summer nights than with Grease, the hit movie-musical that has forever endeared the term “summer lovin’”? Throw on a poodle skirt and head down to Wingfield to sing along with a film that’s sure to get everyone revved up for August, a month of classic cars and even hotter summer nights.

July 27, 9-11 p.m. (PG-13)