Every Tuesday night this summer, Stanley Park's normally tranquil, squirrel-kissed Ceperley Meadow will fill with the sounds of jungle animals, truant teenagers, good girls corrupted by greasers, blues-loving siblings on a mission from God, intellectually-challenged male models and knights who say "Ni."
Beginning July 3, Fresh Air Cinema's free summer movie series returns for its fifth year, with nine nights of cinematic classics and not-so-classics, projected onto a big screen in the great outdoors. This year's lineup includes Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (July 3), Zoolander (July 10), Spaceballs (July 17), The Lion King (July 24), Grease (July 31), Blues Brothers (Aug. 7), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Aug. 14), Labyrinth (Aug. 21) and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Aug. 28).
According to Fresh Air Cinema co-owner and director of sales and marketing Jason Bashnick, much soul searching and debate went into deciding what crowd-pleasers audiences would want to see and which unpolished gem from Keanu Reeve's wooden oeuvre to unleash on the masses.
"What might be a good movie might not be a good movie for the outdoors," Bashnick says. "We also have to adhere to certain bylaw restrictions so we can't play a two-and-a-half, or three-hour epic." Fans of the Saw franchise and other sensitive gore-fests will also be disappointed, since all the movies must be rated G or PG for the family-friendly screenings
"It has to be fun, uplifting-kind of a popcorn flick," Bashnick adds. "Last year we had a really good lineup with Jaws and Jurassic Park. This year we've gone a little more cultish with movies like Labyrinth, Spaceballs, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We've kind of pushed that boundary a little bit, but we've also thrown some blockbusters in there. Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a nice one to wrap up the summer."
Fresh Air Cinema's high-def projector starts shining at sunset, and those attending should bring a blanket or something to sit on since the grass gets damp as the night progresses. In addition to popcorn and coffee, there will be several food trucks on hand such as Triple O's, Mr. Cool and Off the Wagon. Although admission is free, the event raises funds for the Red Cross, with donations accepted onsite and via text message. Food vendors will also donate five per cent of their nightly earnings to the charity.
Bashnick admits that in an era where fewer people go to the movies, the Internet has all but killed the video store and drivein theatres have gone the way of poodle skirts and ducktails, combining all three in one free event seems like a trifecta of failure. But for some reason, for the past five years the thousands of people who attend each screening, it works.
"When you go into a movie theatre it's 'hush, hush, be quiet'- but at our events you have people with blankets and inflatable couches and guys with hibachis cooking up their meal for the night. It's a very social atmosphere," Bashnick says. "There's an x-factor that I haven't quite figured out. When you show up at a venue and it's a gorgeous summer night and the sun is setting and there's no wind and three or four thousand people just sitting on the grass, enjoying the green space that we have, there's something magical about it."
Of course, what's not so magical is the all-too-common problem of people somehow still forgetting to turn their cellphones off before the movie starts. But Bashnick says the Fresh Air Cinema experience has a way of curbing those kinds of modern mental lapses.
"We tell people to turn their phones off beforehand. But you've got 3,000 people watching a movie at Stanley Park, so if somebody's phone goes off, they're going to look pretty ridiculous."
For a full listing of movies and other events, go to facebook.com/freshaircinema.